16 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know
1—Hiring Challenges Grow in Tight Labor Market
Not surprisingly, the challenge of recruiting and retaining talent has increased by 22% since last year, according to findings from the latest Small Business Trends report just released by small business financing company Guidant Financial.
The report’s findings are based on the annual Small Business Trends survey conducted by the Small Business Trends Alliance (SBTA), a group of companies dedicated to supporting small business with data insights.
“We continue to see historically low unemployment and with more jobs open then people seeking them—it’s become increasingly difficult for small businesses to recruit and retain top talent,” says David Nilssen, CEO of Guidant Financial. “But the data validates our experience which is that those who venture out on their own are generally happy, profitable and making a meaningful contribution to the economy.”
- 78% percent of small businesses are profitable, remaining unchanged year over year.
- The top two challenges: 1) lack of capital or cash-flow 2) employee recruiting and retention.
- 75% of small business owners started either new businesses or opened a new franchise location, a 47% YoY increase. 25% bought preexisting businesses or franchise locations, a 50% decrease YoY.
- 14% YoY increase in the use of SBA loans to finance small businesses.
- The top three political issues for small business owners: 1) business taxes 2) healthcare 3) interest rates.
- Happiness is high among small business owners, with 77% of respondents ranking their happiness as “somewhat” or “very” happy
- 76% of small business owners want to grow their existing location or open a new one, versus only 7% who are looking to sell.
- There was a 27% YoY increase in those who started a small business because of dissatisfaction with corporate America.
- There was also a 22% YoY increase in those who started a small business because they were ready to be their own boss.
The report can be found at here.
2—Gender Pay Gap Is Still an Issue for Women in Tech
Most women who work in technology are still experiencing inequality when it comes to salary and career progression, according to a recent survey from Ivanti.
The Ivanti Women in Tech Survey 2019 surveyed women about their experiences and priorities working in the technology industry. Despite the implementation of equal pay legislation in the U.S. and UK in 1963 and 1970 respectively, the report revealed that pay is still a key issue for many of the respondents—64% say equality in pay and benefits is the main factor that would attract them to a new role, while 46% suggested the industry still needs to close the gender pay gap to encourage more women into the industry.
Flexible and part-time work schedules and career advancement are also topics those surveyed identified as areas for improvement. Respondents cited both as key drivers for employee satisfaction and retention. According to over half of respondents (51%), greater availability of flexible working policies would attract them to a new role, while one third stated that greater support from their employer for part-time work in management positions would help progress their career.
Interestingly, the perception of a “glass ceiling” holding women in technology back is greater this year than last. As many as 31% cited this as a key challenge, up from last year’s figure of 24%.
Other key findings:
- Nearly 75% of respondents highlighted the importance of industry collaboration and partnership with schools and universities to encourage more women into technology
- 40% identified career coaching and mentoring as one of their top three priorities
- Compared to last year’s, the number of women saying they aren’t taken seriously in the workplace decreased by 10%. However, this figure is still high at 53%.
- 44% say companies are failing to adequately attract and retain female talent
- When asked why women’s professional growth is often slower than their male counterparts, 62% say stereotypes still favor men in leadership roles and that men and women in similar roles are judged by different criteria
- Respondents ranked more employer focus on female advancement and career paths as the top way companies can help to progress women’s careers
Sarah Lewis, director of field marketing at Ivanti, says, “Although some progress has been made, women in tech are still battling pay inequality and an organizational culture that continues to favor men in leadership positions. While women in tech movements are challenging the status quo, more needs to be done not only to entice talented women to work in tech but to make sure their aspirations are valued and supported.”
The Ivanti Women in Tech Survey 2019 is a part of Ivanti’s Women in Technology initiative which launched in July 2017. The campaign was launched as an online and face-to-face support network for women in the industry who are limited on time but still want to share ideas and successes with like-minded peers. Ivanti leverages this network to host dedicated events, and publishes online resources such as blogs, podcasts and curated news through a dedicated Twitter page (@thetechiegirls) and blog.
3—SMB Economic Optimism Improves in Q4
Confidence in the economy among SMB CEOs rose to 91.5 in Vistage’s Q4 2019 CEO Confidence Index, up 7.7% from the previous corner. This ended 2019 at the same level it started.
“The latest Vistage CEO Confidence Index rose for the first time since Q4 2018, suggesting the end of the current business cycle as the economic slowdown slows down,” said Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer for Vistage. “Of the six factors that comprise the Index, five bounced off their Q3 2019 lows. The highlights in Q4 include growing expectations for increased revenues (67%) and increased profits (57%). The direction of the economy is a continued concern, with just 16% of CEOs expecting improved conditions in the year ahead.”
Small Rebound in Prospects for the Economy
- While just 16% of CEOs expect improved economic conditions in 2020
- 29% anticipate worsening economic conditions
- The proportion of CEOs that reported recent economic gains in economic conditions rose to 27% but was well below last year’s 44%.
Revenue and Profit Outlook
- 67% expect increased revenues. Just 8% anticipate declines in total revenue
- 57% expect profit increases. Just 12% of all CEOs anticipate profit declines.
- 44% report their prices will increase.
- 70% say offering affordable health care for employee was challenging.
- 29% have raised prices to mitigate the rising cost of healthcare.
- 37% say tariffs are negatively impacting their business.
Hiring Plans Remain Strong
63% plan to add to their workforce. Just 5% of businesses are planning reductions.
42% anticipate an increase in expenditures for new fixed investments.
CEOs reported that the goals for investments in new technologies are to:
- Position themselves as innovators and leaders in their fields
- Enhance their ability to gain and keep customers
- Lower costs by streamlining operations and procedures
- Improve productivity
- Attract and retain employees
- Reduce overall costs
4—Facebook By the Numbers
Did you know:
- Facebook generated 17.65 billion USD in Q3-2019?
- Facebook had 2.44 billion monthly active users (MAUs) globally in Q3-2019?
- 300 million people watch Facebook stories daily and are targeted by 2 million active advertisers?
TheGoodEstate has created a series of posts about Facebook that are useful and interesting—and up-to-date.
5—9 PR and Marketing Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
Guest post by Diana Ennen, president of Virtual Word Publishing, which offers PR and Marketing services, book marketing services, and PR and Virtual Assistant Coaching. Follow her on social media at https://www.facebook.com/VirtualWordPublishing/.
PR and marketing can be overwhelming, and many don’t do it as often as they should because they are afraid of doing it wrong. Yes, you can make mistakes, however, once you know how to look for them it’s easier than ever to get great results for your business. Here are the top mistakes we have seen in business and what to avoid.
Mistake #1 – Missing the Boat: There are numerous way to miss the boat when doing PR and marketing. Here are just a few. First, not getting back promptly with the interviewer or responding too late will have you missing opportunity after opportunity. It’s imperative that when asked for additional information, you give it to them as quickly as you can or at least provide an update when they can receive the information.
Another way to miss the boat is waiting too long to respond to HARO or Profnet requests. Yes, they might give a deadline of several days, but normally once they get their information and expert source, that’s it. So waiting too long will leave you high and dry.
And finally, there is a delicate balance of when to send press releases or media. Timing is critical. Sending out press releases too early can have a negative impact as some will think they have time and just wait. If it’s too close to the event or whatever you are promoting, you missed your mark as well. So plan accordingly.
Mistake #2 – Getting Upset Over Things Out of Your Control: Unfortunately by the very beast of PR, things happen that are often out of your control. The best thing you can do is go immediately to Plan B. Say you are scheduled for a big interview and then a bigger news story delays that interview. It’s important to be professional and work with the network to reschedule. Know that it often isn’t their fault, so be flexible. It hurts, but hopefully will be resolved soon. Also, don’t follow-up too much. They are busy with this new news and if they are getting dozens of emails from you to reschedule, guess what—it’s not going to happen. It’s good to follow-up just do it right.
Mistake #3 – Typos and More: When someone receives your pitch, press release, article, etc., and it’s riddled with typos guess what, they immediately think less of you. I know that’s harsh, but it’s true. Now we aren’t always perfect but do take the time to reread and make sure it’s accurate. Double-check key things such as contact information, websites, etc.
Mistake #4 – Start / Stop / Start / Stop – Not Being Consistent with Your PR: This is what we see the most of in my work and is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes made. Clients go gangbusters and get the attention of numerous sources building that solid relationship and then they decide to slow down a bit or downright stop. Not only might we lose those sources, but when it’s time to start back up again, it can feel like starting over again. Most PR pros also know their clients well and as they work together to get to know them even more building a solid understanding of their business, brand, message, products and services, etc. When they stop, it takes some time to get that familiarity back again when they want to start back up. So don’t make this mistake. Commit and continue.
Mistake #5 – Follow-up Media Calling: Too long, too unprofessional, too often. We do call media for a client, but it’s time-sensitive and very on point to be featured on the news or publications. Normally we don’t follow-up when sending press releases or articles out unless it’s very important. Most editors don’t want to hear, “Did you get my press release on an event taking place in two months.” So be very mindful if you do follow-up. When you do, get right to the point, be very professional, and have tough skin. Most will be receptive and nice, but you will get a few that aren’t. Brush it off and continue the journey.
Mistake #6 –– Missing Deadlines: Huge mistake (HUGE, said in the Pretty Woman tone) you can make in getting PR is missing deadlines or requesting too many extensions. Keep in mind most of those who have asked for additional information or questions answered are on a tight deadline themselves. When you miss it, you put them in a stressful situation. They are more than likely on deadline too. So know the deadline and always meet it. And yes, it’s OK to ask, “When do you need this by?” so you know the time frame to work with.
Mistake #7 – The Same Ole’, Same Ole’: Have you ever followed someone you respected, but then it seems like their content is hitting the repeat button over and over again? Yes, they still put out new content, however, you can tell their heart isn’t into it. Always know that, yes, you will be in front of the audience often but have something new. Look for motivation in different places. If your content is feeling stale, figure out how to amp it up. Recognize it first and then figure out how to change it.
Mistake #8 – Hearing Crickets: Another huge mistake many businesses make is once they get media mentions, they don’t do anything with it. You should be shouting it from the roof tops, or at least adding it to your social media, blog, in the news page, newsletter, and more. Your audience, who already knows and loves you, will be interested in what you are up to so let them know when you get a media mention. So set up systems to do this.
Mistake #9 – Playing Big Shot: Stop already. There is no need to sound “smart” and use all these fancy terms to show you are an expert. It usually has the opposite effect and leaves editors wondering what the heck you are saying and why you feel you need to impress them. Make your point, say it well, and forego of too much industry jargon or big words. Now we aren’t saying to dumb down your pitch, we just recommend that you sound like a human.
So many more we could address, but these are the biggies. And remember if you aren’t sure, ask the assistance of a PR Pro who does this day in and day out.
6—New Service Provides Equal Benefits to Contingent Workers
Aquent, a global talent services company, just launched Aquent Square Deal, a new service that will enable companies to offer their contingent workforce equal benefits.
Aquent Square Deal is a benefits ecosystem that allows companies to seamlessly implement comprehensive, highly customized benefits for their extended workforce. The goal is to solve a complex challenge–leveling the benefits playing field for all workers.
“In today’s labor market, there is major inequality and a two-tier workforce that exists between a company’s employees and their contingent workers when it comes to benefits,” says John H. Chuang, CEO of Aquent. “If large companies don’t step up and take the lead to solve this problem, then nobody will. That is why we have created a new innovative solution that provides comprehensive benefits packages to the extended workforce efficiently and at scale.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 6 million contingent workers in 2017. In many companies, up to 50% of workers are contingent, even outnumbering full-time employees in some cases. While a company’s employees typically have access to great benefits, oftentimes their extended workforce of temporary and contract workers do not receive any.
“A flexible workforce is necessary to help American companies maintain their competitive edge. And the best way to attract and retain these workers is to give them equal benefits. Sooner or later, large companies are going to have to find a way to provide them, so we have taken the proactive step of helping them become leaders today,” added Chuang.
Aquent’s Square Deal offering includes:
- Benefits quality on par with internal employee coverage.
- Benefits, policies, and eligibility designed for variable work—full- and part-time, long- and short-term assignments.
- Insurance plan design tailored to hard-to-insure contingent workers.
- Fully customizable options with no limits on what benefits can be offered.
- Ability to retain existing talent suppliers.
- Focus on customer service and experience for workers with continual satisfaction monitoring.
7—Commuting Hinders Small Business Productivity
8×8, Inc., a leading Software-as-a-Service provider of voice, video, chat, contact center, and enterprise-class API solutions, recently announced the findings of its Video Collaboration Impact Study, exploring the attitudes of modern employees towards the impact of video conferencing on the workplace experience. The study polled knowledge workers at companies with 1-100 people and found they view video conferencing and collaboration as an important tool to increase remote productivity while minimizing traditional workplace headaches such as commuting.
As the lines between professional and personal lives blur, remote working has become the de facto solution for employees looking to take greater ownership of their productivity and to achieve work-life balance, on their terms. In-person meetings and commute times, however, continue to eat into overall productivity. 8×8’s research found that 58% of employees believe their company loses $10-25K annually because employees spend time traveling to meetings and commuting to and from work, and 23% believe their company loses more than $75K as a result. With nearly 30% of respondents citing that meetings require them to come into the office every day or at least multiple times a week, an effective remote solution can give that critical time back to employees, without losing valuable face-to-face interaction.
The survey also looked at the benefits of different video collaboration features and 60% say they use video or screen sharing when hosting a virtual meeting. When asked what value video conferencing adds to meetings, 48% say it allowed them to work from anywhere and 20 percent said it improves their connection with colleagues. Others noted that video conferencing allowed them to hold participants more accountable during meetings than equivalent audio-only conferences.
“As meeting technology has evolved from mass dial-ins and clunky screen sharing functionality, effortless business-ready HD video collaboration has created a powerful link between teams, without requiring them to be tethered to a single office location,” says Dejan Deklich, Chief Product Officer at 8×8. “Meetings are a vital part of the workplace fabric, yet businesses need to be able to support employees who cannot afford to sit through extended commutes due to personal responsibilities or remote physical locations. As most small businesses typically operate on thin profit margins, being able to salvage even 1% of revenue by giving employees time back in their day without sacrificing productivity or human connection is critical.”
While video conferencing continues to grow in popularity among today’s employees, businesses are still falling short in delivering a seamless, intuitive meeting experience. In fact, when asked what they like least about virtual meetings, 38% cite issues with the connection or technology.
In order to deliver the exceptional virtual meetings experience modern employees crave, 8×8 is offering a free, standalone version of 8×8 Video Meetings, enabling teams to digitally meet in seconds and collaborate instantaneously without time restrictions.
8×8 Video Meetings also doesn’t require downloading of plugins or software applications. Optimized for Google Chrome, Firefox and other WebRTC-enabled browsers, 8×8 Video Meetings works from anywhere globally on any OS and device. There’s more information here. Or start an account.
8—Amazon, Walmart Logistics Strategies Influence SMB’s Shipping Outlook
uShip, a logistics technology platform for large and bulky goods, recently released its 2020 SMB Shipping Strategies Report, which highlights the growing importance of shipping and logistics in the SMB sector. For example, 47% of SMB business decision makers who have involvement or influence in distribution/logistics and/or procurement/purchasing estimate an increase in their shipping spend in 2020 compared to 2019.
The study conducted online with third-party research firm YouGov, also revealed SMB shipping spend is being influenced by big-box retailers. In fact, 25% SMB decision makers said the logistics strategies of Amazon and Walmart are influencing how their SMB thinks about shipping, while 27% said those strategies are influencing how their customers think about shipping.
Investment Priority: Team vs. Technology: The top-down pressure from big-box players is creating an underlying tension within the mid-market, which includes companies that likely doesn’t have the same infrastructure and resources to support aggressive logistics strategies.
As a result, the debate for SMBs boils down to where they invest resources towards logistics: teams or technology? The study finds 20% of SMB decision makers would rather invest in the right logistics team over technology, while 30% plan to make new technology a priority.
Meanwhile, 14% say investing in new technology is too expensive, while 17% prefer to invest in alternatives to traditional shipping options such as UPS, FedEx, XPO Logistics, and freight brokers.
“The decisions of small and mid-sized business owners are being heavily influenced by the rise of big-box retailers like Amazon,” says Kris Lamb, CEO of uShip. “So, SMBs are beginning to rethink how they invest their shipping and logistics dollars.”
Large and Bulky Struggle: While parcel shipping remains a fairly well-oiled machine for many businesses, shipping large and bulky e-commerce—furniture, vehicles, sporting equipment, safes, and more—remains a mystery to some. And when they have oversized or fragile items to deliver, many don’t find service reliable or affordable. Among SMB decision makers, the survey finds:
- 17% don’t trust fragile items to arrive safely or unbroken
- 15% can’t find a reliable carrier to ship oversized and bulky items
- 12% can’t find an affordable shipping solution
- 11% don’t know where to find alternative shipping options to organizations like UPS, XPO Logistics, and freight brokers.
With the logistics industry moving quickly in favor of the strategies being set forth by big-box retailers, SMB shippers need of new ways to compete and address some of the above pain points, especially when it comes to big and bulky. It’s important for owners of small and mid-sized retailers to wisely evaluate all their options for investing in the coming year and make informed decisions when searching for new shipping and supply chain strategies or partners.
The full report is available on uShip.com.
9—New Products from Belkin
BOOST↑CHARGE™ USB-C GaN Wall Chargers (30W, 60W, 68W)
GaN technology allows for efficient fast charging in smaller, more compact designs than traditional chargers, providing consumers with an improved charging experience. Belkin’s new lineup of GaN wall chargers are designed to efficiently charge a wide range of devices, from smartphones to laptops.
- Belkin USB-C GaN Charger 30W efficiently charges a MacBook Air and has a foldable plug for ease and portability when traveling.
- Belkin USB-C GaN Charger 60W is the smallest of its kind in the Belkin portfolio and is the go-to solution for a MacBook Pro.
- Belkin USB-C GaN Charger 68W has two USB-C ports which feature Intelligent Power Sharing to sense and direct the most efficient charge to the devices plugged in. It also has a foldable plug that makes it a great solution for travel.
Coming: April 2020; Price range: $34.99-$59.99
BOOST↑CHARGE™ USB-C™ Power Bank (10K, 20K)
- The 10K version features a 18W USB-C output with Power Delivery and fast charges an iPhone from 0-50% in 30 minutes and charges a second device up to 12W using the USB-A port.
- The 20K version has 30W of charging power and provides up to 28 hours of extra battery life for a MacBook. It also can charge a second device up to 12W using the USB-A port and includes is a 2 ft. USB-C to USB-C cable for fast charging the power bank itself.
Coming: March/April 2020; Price range: $39.99-$69.99
BOOST↑CHARGE™ 3 in 1 Wireless Charger for iPhone + Apple Watch + AirPods
This 3-in-1 dock allows the user to wirelessly charge all their Apple devices simultaneously. It includes a charging puck for the Apple Watch, a pad for AirPods and a fast wireless charging stand for the iPhone. It is compatible with most phone cases up to 3mm as well as the case for the AirPods Pro and has an LED light that clearly displays charging status.
Coming: April 2020; MSRP: $109.99
Building on Belkin’s pedigree in fast wireless charging, the BOOST↑CHARGE™ Wireless Charging Stand + Speaker allows consumers to listen to music, watch videos, and take phone calls, while charging their phone in multiple viewing angles. The compact design is perfect for the bedroom or dorm room nightstand, and a home or office desk. A simple one-touch Bluetooth button provides a seamless experience, and the wireless charging stand provides a steady charge up to 10W for Qi-enabled smart phones.
Coming April 2020; MSRP: $49.99
BOOST↑CHARGE™ Dual Wireless Charging Pads 10W
These dual wireless charging pads provide safe and convenient fast wireless charging for two smartphones at once, up to 10W. They are ideal for uncluttering a bedroom, office, or living room and to simplify charging. The pads charge through cases up to 3mm, and a non-slip grip helps secure the smartphone on the pads. An external power supply with 4ft cable is included.
Coming: March 2020; MSRP: $49.99
BOOST↑CHARGE™ Wireless Car Charger + Vent Mount 10W
This fast, in-car wireless charging solution provides safe and convenient fast wireless charging on the go. The vent mount includes a single-hand placement feature and a smart button to open and close the arms automatically, so you can easily place and remove the phone from the vent mount. It also includes a CLA with two USB-A ports; one port to charge the vent mount using a USB-A to USB-C connection, and the second port to charge an additional device.
Coming: March 2020; MSRP: $49.99
BOOST↑CHARGE™ Portable Wireless Charger + Stand 10W Special Edition
This product is a 2-in-1 wireless charging solution offering a 10,000 mAh wireless charging power bank for charging on-the-go, and a stand for charging at home or in the office. It allows users to charge their iPhone wirelessly anywhere, and charge at home or in the office by docking their phone with the base stand. When the stand is being utilized, the Qi-enabled phone can charge in multiple viewing angles. The included dual coils ensure consistent fast wireless charging in any angle.
Coming: March 2020; MSRP: $79.99
SCREENFORCE™ TrueClear™ Curve Screen Protection For Latest Apple Watches
These screen protectors for Apple Watch Series 5/4 are made of tough plastic that includes a 3H coating and provides edge-to-edge coverage. They are water resistant and designed to preserve touch sensitivity and clarity and provide scratch protection for the watch’s face. The products also come with an in-box Easy Align tray to assist in precise application.
Coming: February 2020; Pricing: $29.99
SCREENFORCE™TemperedGlass Screen Protection For Latest iPads and iPad mini
These screen protectors for iPad mini 5/4 as well as iPad (7th generation), iPad Air 3 and 10.5 inch iPad Pro are constructed of high-quality Japanese Asahi glass, which preserves the device’s touch sensitivity and clarity. The screen protectors also provide added smudge resistance and scratch/scuff protection from incidental contact. They are compatible with the Apple Pencil and Apple cases. The products also come with an in-box Easy Align tray to assist in precise application.
Coming: February 2020; Price range: $39.99-$44.99
10—Sprint Launches Cloud-Based Phone Service
A few months ago Sprint launched Omni, a cloud-based commercial phone service designed to bring premium enterprise-quality landline phone technologies to SMBs. Omni helps businesses make sure they stay on top of everything by enabling them to capture missed phone calls, present a professional image and work more efficiently while on the go. Using just a high-speed internet connection, small businesses can tap into cloud-based phone technology to intelligently manage voice communications to help grow their businesses. Features like a virtual receptionist for custom call answering and routing, multi-device ring, custom recorded messages and virtual extensions make small businesses sound like big businesses. Additionally, the virtual office’s mobile app provides remote access to calls and voicemails, while a web portal simplifies user management, settings and call preferences.
Omni utilizes VoIP technology powered by Ooma®, one of the nation’s leading VoIP technology providers. With Ooma’s technology, Sprint can provide Omni as a stand-alone service or part of a converged solution with one or more of Sprint’s other leading business products, such as Sprint’s global wireless service, Sprint MultiLine, Sprint Smart Messaging and Sprint Secure Wi-Fi.
Big-Business Features at Small-Business Prices
- Purpose built for SMB customers—simplified, flexible deployment and management
- 35+ features including virtual receptionists and full suite of configurable cloud-based private branch exchange (PBX) features
- Web portal simplifies user management and eliminates need for expensive IT support
- No contract required – service is provided on a month-to-month basis
- Compatible with existing analog phones and select IP phones – a feature unique to Omni and often not offered by competitors
- Plans start at $19.95 per extension per month to fit any budget
To learn more about Omni, visit Sprint Business online.
500apps offers “all-in-one” apps enables growing businesses to run like bigger companies. Priced at $50/user, the “Infinity” suite offers over 50 apps in works including Agile CRM (top 5 CRM trusted by over 25,000 businesses), website builder (with personalization), scheduling app (with AI), project management, live chat, time tracking, enterprise collaboration software, social suite with automation, apps connector, and HR apps.
Track.ly is a versatile time tracking software on an easy-to-use cloud-based platform. It allows you to track work time, boost productivity and monitor progress, and delivers simple timesheet, reporting and payroll solutions on a feature-rich platform.
12—Get more from HubSpot. Visual Objects shares tips and case studies for businesses looking to get more out of their HubSpot use.
16—Top cities for Gen Z. According to Nestpick, the top global cities for Gen Z are:
- Los Angeles
- New York
Check this post for more detailed information.