18 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—AI & Email
Incorporating AI into your email marketing can help you drive higher conversion rates and sales, although it’s worth mentioning that email marketing in the U.S. already has a high ROI median at 122%—that’s four times higher than social media, direct mail, and paid search, according to the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric.
Connext Digital explains why marketers should take advantage of Artificial Intelligence to boost their email marketing campaign in the infographic below.
2— Small Business Week Hackathon
Small Business Weeks kicks off next week and Visa partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to host a three-day hackathon at the Inclusive Innovation Incubator in Washington D.C.
Beginning May 3, local app developers, business owners and idea generators will face the challenge of mashing up APIs from FEMA, the Visa Developer Platform and business continuity planners to solve for how small businesses can restore their revenue streams, finance short and long-term recovery, establish a robust supply chain, deal with power disruptions and keep their employees on the payroll in the aftermath of a major disaster.
This hackathon is a part of Visa’s Back to Business project. Visa found 96% of affected small businesses see revenue losses after a natural disaster and on average it takes businesses $850,000 to fully recover. Visa and SBA are doing their part in helping small businesses establish recovery plans and be prepared for any disaster to strike.
For more information on the National Small Business Week hackathon, please visit the hackathon here.
3—The Psychology of Space
Do you ever think about how much your surroundings affect your mood and your productivity? At home things like unfinished projects or a paint color you really hate can grate on your nerves, adding up to an ongoing low level of stress. Marie Kondo is wildly popular right now precisely because many people realize just how much clutter affects their overall happiness. Even in the workplace your surroundings can affect your health, stress levels, and productivity.
Studies have shown that clutter and unfinished projects can trigger your stress response, and if you don’t address the problem, that stress can build up over time and keep you in a perpetual state of fight or flight. This is a difficult situation to overcome in the workplace because it may not always be immediately apparent who is in charge of taking care of small projects – building manager, business owner, or employee.
Taking back control of your space can help you feel less stressed about your surroundings, which can increase your productivity and make you feel less stressed out at work. It might make a great team building exercise to redo the break room to make it a place where your team will actually want to take breaks!
See the infographic below from The Patch Boys for more information.
4—Which Voice Assistant Has the Most Marketing Potential?
Uberall, Inc., the location marketing solution for businesses competing to attract and win local brick-and-mortar customers, released a new study about how SMB marketers feel about interactive voice technology. Interactive voice is the 2-way engagement that a consumer has with a voice assistant like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri. People can use these assistants in many different places like smart speakers, mobile phones, and connected services at home and on the go.
Here’s what they found:
48% think Amazon Alexa has most marketing potential: followed by: “Google Assistant” (29%), “Apple’s Siri” (17%), “Microsoft’s Cortana” (3%) and “Other” (3%). Florian Huebner, Uberall Co-CEO and cofounder says, “In terms of its install base, Alexa is the most popular voice assistant today. With its rising scale and growing ecosystem, it’s no wonder so many SMB marketers recognize its potential.”
Voice isn’t a major part of most SMB marketing strategies—but spend is rising: When SMB marketers were asked how their organization’s marketing budget for interactive voice channels is changing, 35% say it’s increasing. However, of that group, only 9% say it’s “significantly increasing” while 26% say it was “slightly increasing.” Just 3% say it’s “slightly decreasing” and 1% say “significantly decreasing.” Lagging behind, 38% of SMB marketers don’t do anything with voice.
“With voice technology still in its infancy, it’s possible that SMBs are waiting until it matures—either from a scale or technology point-of-view—before making it a more prominent part of their marketing strategies,” Huebner says. “There is also a learning curve on best practices and campaign development that is likely stalling investments.”
More than half would invest in voice if they had better insight into ROI: The respondents were asked what would make their organization invest more in interactive voice marketing. Their replies: “Better insight into campaign success and ROI” (53%), “more data for campaign targeting and personalization (47%), “lower barrier to entry on the technology side (33%), “more alignment with my performance campaigns” (32%), “deeper/wider integration into the overall product ecosystem (e.g. smart fridges, smart speakers, smart TVs, phones, etc.)” (28%) and “other” (10%).
40% think they should develop their own interactive voice channels: When asked who should be in charge of developing content for interactive voice channels, 40% say “us, the brand/in-house.” Other answers include “creative/content agency” (28%), “other/I’m not sure” (13%), “media-buying agency” (9%), “SEO agency” (7%) and “publisher partners” (3%).
“This is a very new form of marketing, so developing interactive voice content in-house allows SMBs to have a level of control they might not have with third-party vendors,” says Huebner. “It also keeps costs in check. However, most SMBs are just dipping their toe into voice marketing. As their ambitions grow and campaigns become more sophisticated, they will have to outsource more of the development.”
Check out the full study.
5—How Mom-and-Pop Shops Can Thrive
Mom-and-pop shops are typically family-owned and operated businesses that have a small sales volume and limited number of employees, but their value can’t be understated. The term ‘mom-and-pop shop’ can apply to a variety of brick-and-mortar business types, from boutique clothing shops to restaurants, bookstores, and just about everything in between.
Even in the face of competition from big-box stores and online retailers, the mom-and-pop shop isn’t dead. In fact, with more consumers choosing to shop local (and not just on Small Business Saturday), independent retailers are well-positioned to grow because they offer what mainstream competitors lack: personalized, in-store shopping experiences.
Mom-and-pop shops are tasked with being flexible and creative to succeed against competitors, and understanding what customers want is a great place to start. For instance, offering high quality, specialty products that can’t be found elsewhere can set a mom-and-pop shop apart and make it more likely for customers to pay more for niche offerings.
Because mom-and-pop shops are crucial to their communities, especially in boosting the local economy, it’s safe to say that the mom-and-pop shops are here to stay.
Please include attribution to Fundera.com with this graphic.
6—3 Ways to Make the 4 AM Club Work For You
“Early to bed, early to rise makes a [wo]man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Ben Franklin
You’ve heard it said a million times before: the early bird catches the worm, and in the opinion of many highly successful people, the phrase is much more than a cliché. The benefits of an extremely early morning routine have been touted by so many self-made celebrities that the “4 AM Club” has become a part of the public vernacular. Any web search will pull up a dozen articles with contradictory research on the benefits and downsides of the routine, along with firsthand accounts of people “taking the 4 AM challenge.”
These trials are often full of negative impressions: disorientation in the dark hours before dawn; a mid-afternoon slump that belies productivity; and by dinnertime, the inability to form coherent sentences. And then, almost as quickly as it begins, the challenge is over, sworn off forever as an unrealistic, unachievable, and borderline inhumane goal.
Yet 4 AM remains the magic hour for many world changers like Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Tim Cook, and experience has taught me why. In my world, it’s a time of quiet, focus, determination and accomplishment.
My routine is not without naysayers. An 8 PM bedtime with a 4 AM wake-up call has made me the subject of much critique over the years. Many people feel uncomfortable with my choice, claiming that my practices are unhealthy and not sustainable for the long term. Yet I’ve found deep joy in the practice.
As an entrepreneur and the mother of a growing family, high-paced days at my desk and endless days on the road, are only outpaced by high-energy evenings and weekends with my family of five. My favorite use of this early morning time is for my own personal development and self-care so I can be at the top of my game during the remaining hours of the day. By waking up at 4 AM, I’m able to routinely take time for myself. I work out while listening to audiobooks, I meditate while I stretch, I prepare a healthy breakfast—and most important, I tackle my most critical work of the day while enjoying my espresso—all before 7 AM.
If this is something you’ve wanted to try but haven’t yet managed to find success in, here are a few keys I’ve found to making this routine not only possible, but extremely enjoyable as well:
Check your DNA: Have you ever referred to yourself as a “morning person” or “night owl”? We typically use these terms to indicate our preferred time of productivity—but they can signify something much more fundamental to our being. Our tendency to be productive at certain times of the day is often hard-wired in us, an internal clock that’s determined by our DNA. This genetic predisposition is called our chronotype. If you identify as a night owl, then you can stop reading now. This method is not for you and it never will be. In fact, research shows a correlation to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease if you try to force an extra early wake-time when your DNA is telling you otherwise. But if you feel like you do your best work in the morning, or maybe you’re not sure, then the 4 AM club could be for you.
Check your watch: The key to making this system work, and to sustaining it, has everything to do with getting to bed at the right time each evening, and being consistent about it. Knowing the exact number of sleep hours that support your peak performance is requisite to success—mine is eight. While I can certainly make accommodations when my schedule forces me to get less sleep, more than a few nights of that in any given month effectively compromises all the systems that work together to make me successful in my day-to-day life. Without enough sleep, my motivation to exercise is zapped, my food choices start moving in a downward spiral, and my productivity at work takes a nosedive.
Check your excuses: If you’re going to take a shot at creating a new early morning routine, you must go into it knowing that this is a no-excuses kind of practice. Follow the 21/90 rule—on average, it takes 21 days (or three full weeks) to form a habit. If the system seems to work for you, another 90 days (about three months) practice is recommended to turn it into a permanent lifestyle change. That said, you can bet your money on the fact that the first few days will be brutal. The first morning your alarm goes off at that other-worldly hour, your instinct will be to hit snooze with your inner voice pleading, “just a few more minutes.” A few more minutes inevitably turns into another hour or two, which is not getting you any closer to seeing if this system really works for you. Try combating this sleep trap by using the Rule of 5 as soon as you hear your alarm go off. When you hear the buzzer, count to five, pop up, and start moving out of bed, no matter how you feel about it in that moment. It’s totally normal to move through the motions of the first part of your morning like a zombie at first, but don’t let that stop you from making a routine of it for a least three weeks. Watch out for that sneaky 10-day slump too—for some people, the excuses come out after we feel like we’ve accomplished something, and we let our guard down.
Above all, know that every person is wired in their own way, and successful habits look different for everyone. Do not try to define yourself by what works for others — instead, let them inspire you to find your own routines that drive you toward your goals.
7—HR Focus: How PR Can Help You Hire and Retain the Best Employees
Guest post by Jennifer Vickery, CEO, National Strategies Public Relations
In HR, we know how important it is to have the best talent feel rewarded, engaged, and part of supporting your organization’s growth. Today we focus on the magic that happens when human resources meets public relations as that’s when we see a true transformation of workplace culture.
For many businesses workplace culture can mean wellness time off, healthy habit campaigns, giving back to the community, and special internal events and rewards. But when HR teams up with PR, we see dramatic change in the way employees are hired and retained through simple efforts.
Here are the top three ways public relations can influence your HR planning for workplace culture and retain your best employees.
1—Asking employees what they believe in. Many times the simple step of surveying employees is missed when developing community efforts. We often see communications and marketing departments taking the reins of designing a community outreach program. While this is great for the overall business, it misses out on the opportunity for HR to tap into the causes that current employees truly care about.
Studies show when employees get to support causes they actually care about and are engaged in through their work, they feel happier and stay longer at their jobs. Why not have HR and PR collaborate on community outreach efforts and make for a solid plan? For more tips on how to do this, read our article here.
2—Spotlight employees with human interest stories. What we’ve learned time and time again is that everyone has a story. All people experience challenges and triumphs and that is often the thread that brings us together as humans. Conversely, what we find is often HR isn’t informed enough about employees’ human interest stories and therefore leave opportunities on the table that could truly shine the spotlight not only on your organization but your employees. We’ve seen amazing stories such as an employee raising funds for their mother who received a life-saving organ donation to an executive leader overcoming a spinal cord injury. Let these stories shine!
This is where management from all departments can help with setting a protocol for people to share their stories and get to know each other on a deeper level. Then HR can pick up the lead and work with marketing on communicating those stories via social media, newsletter, website, and to local media. When an employee is featured in such a significant way, it raises their level of buy-in to the business and again retains them much longer.
3—Celebrate milestones. Typically, when someone in leadership is promoted or receives an award, we hear about the news through business announcements or perhaps even a press release. While every employee’s internal growth simply cannot be turned into a press release, for example, it’s still wise to celebrate milestones for employees who are not at executive leadership levels. These employees are your hard-working life force and simple milestone celebrations can go a long way.
Typical milestone celebrations look like an official announcement along with a photo, a group event celebrating corporate anniversaries or a commemorative gift for major milestones. But what about taking a look at the unique ways PR can help assist with celebrating employee milestones? Could there be an unprecedented time off policy incorporated, a way to give back to the community celebrating the employee’s five-year anniversary by bringing puppies for adoption into the workplace or spending the afternoon at a children’s foster home facility playing board games? These are just some ways to make an employee’s milestone from drab to unforgettable, therefore, again keeping them engaged.
There are many ways HR can capitalize on hiring and retaining the best talent and we hope these top PR strategies help incorporate a new level of engagement among your team.
8—24 Million Americans Want to Become Self-Employed by 2021
FreshBooks recently released results from its third annual study, Self-Employment in America Report 2019, which reveals 24 million Americans want to leave traditional employment to become their own bosses by 2021, but face barriers to making the leap. Check out the full report for more information.
“Tens of millions of Americans have told us that their ‘dream job’ is to work for themselves,” says Mike McDerment, cofounder and CEO at FreshBooks. “But this is a scary proposition for most because the world is in many ways not ready for them. The good news is the payoffs—both financial and otherwise—are real. It’s a big part of our job, for those just starting out and those who’ve been at it awhile, to help entrepreneurs realize their full potential.”
Self-employment is the new American dream –but millions are ‘stuck’ on the sidelines. What’s holding them back? 24 million Americans want to work for themselves by 2021. There is no doubt a significant mindset shift is underway; however millions of aspiring entrepreneurs say they face barriers to making the switch:
- 35% worry about inconsistent income
- 28% don’t have the cash to invest or need to pay down debt first
- 27% lack a complete business plan
- 27% worry about earning less money
- 20% don’t want to give up health benefits
Self-employed Americans are happier, healthier and have no desire to return to a ‘regular job’ anytime soon. The study sheds light on why so many want to be their own boss. Currently, Americans who work for themselves report high levels of satisfaction and well-being:
- 96% have no desire to return to a ‘regular job’
- 70% say they have better work-life balance
- 61 % would be happy with their achievements if their career ended today
- 55% have less stress
- 54% say they are healthier
- 27% spend more time outdoors and travel more
Career control is the #1 reason driving people to self-employment. What is it exactly, that motivates people to abandon the security of a 9-to-5 job and a regular paycheck? The majority of people aspiring to work for themselves are seeking freedom, flexibility and control:
- 65% want to choose when they work
- 56% want to choose how hard they work
- 48%t want control over their own career development
- 47% want control over where they work
- 31% simply don’t like reporting to others
Small businesses (and their owners) are getting younger. Two years ago, the ‘typical’ self-employed professional was a tail-end Baby Boomer, but we’re fast approaching the point where millennials become the dominant self-employed workforce. This is not simply due to changing demographics, but also because Americans are choosing to become entrepreneurs earlier in their careers. The age of new business owners in the U.S. has dropped by 4 years (from 38 to 34 years old) since 2017.
College education is becoming less of a prerequisite. Should current trends persist, we might soon see the majority of self-employed Americans thriving without the benefit of a college degree. Over the last two years, the number of self-employed professionals with a college degree dropped by 8%. Among small businesses founded in the last two years, there’s no difference in revenue comparing those with and without college degrees.
Self-employed Americans typically earn more money and are more productive after making the switch. While 63% of self-employed Americans believe money is less important than quality of life, 55% say they’re earning more working for themselves. 40%work fewer hours but are more productive.
A small business brain drain might be on the horizon. Who’s most likely to be eyeing self-employment within the next two years? Contrary to popular belief, those most eager to leave traditional work are not looking to escape large corporations or cubicle farms. Actually, the opposite appears to be true. A much higher proportion (35%) of employees working at companies with less than 50 employees want to work for themselves within the next two years, compared to only 25% of employees at larger companies. This corresponds with another key research finding: Small business owners currently struggle with finding talented staff or contractors more so than any other challenge, including finding new clients.
9—Remote Workers Missing Out
New data from Igloo Software released today shows 56% of remote employees missed out on important information due to their remote status, with more than half left out of meetings. With working from home becoming a popular benefit, are employers actually doing a disservice by offering the option?
This study finds employers still have a long way to go in order to set remote workers up for success. And these collaboration challenges go beyond remote workers, the 2019 State of the Digital Workplace Report finds:
- 43% of employees have avoided sharing a document with a colleague because it was too hard to find
- Email is the top method for sharing sensitive or private information (69%), with 26% using instant messaging, leaving the organization vulnerable to a breach.
- 55 % use a non-company approved communication app because it’s less likely to be monitored or tracked.
10—Companies Still Not Supporting Meaningful Change at Work
Greenhouse, a fast-growing Talent Acquisition Suite (TAS), recently announced findings from its Workplace Intelligence Report, which identified concerning gaps in employer-based programs that address diversity and inclusion (D&I) and sexual harassment.
Created in partnership with HRWins Founder & Principal Analyst, George LaRocque, Greenhouse’s report surveyed businesses and employees to analyze the most important aspects of the workplace and uncover the trends impacting it.
According to the report, talent is often considered an important business issue, but seldom gets the time and focus it requires. While 47% of CEOs surveyed felt that talent-related matters make up their most important business problems, more 51% of managers spend merely three hours a month on people-related concerns. More startling, 37% spend only an hour a month on those same matters.
“While we’re hearing that people issues are the most pressing business challenges for companies right now, we’re not seeing that translate into meaningful change,” says Carin Van Vuuren, CMO, Greenhouse. “People and talent programs require the same rigor around process and measurement that other business issues are given. Until organizations instill that same level of focus and accountability into their people programs, we will not see the systematic changes that need to happen to address the talent challenges companies face.”
Greenhouse’s report also found a gap between what companies say they’re doing to address D&I and employees’ awareness of those measures within their respective organizations. Despite the existence of Inclusion and sexual harassment initiatives, the trust gap between employees and employers isn’t closing. For example:
- While 55% of companies say they have a D&I program, more than 45% of staff-level employees don’t know if their employer has a D&I program in place or claims their employer does not have a D&I program at all
- Of employers surveyed, merely 8% say their companies are addressing the #MeToo movement and 24% are addressing sexual harassment
- 47% of employers say that D&I initiatives have a positive improvement on company culture; yet 48% of employees say their employer only handles D&I issues through grievance processes.
Greenhouse’s Workplace Intelligence Report is the first major study of its kind to look at both the employer and individual employee perspectives on the most important issues surrounding work today. The full version of the report tackles a number of additional topics, such as hiring and onboarding, the multigenerational workforce, employee engagement vs. longevity and more.
11—Employee Time Off
Whatever the reason for employees, those paid (and unpaid) days of downtime are precious to your staff. But some countries are much more generous than others.
Using data from the World Policy Analysis Center, the International Labour Organization and Globalization Partners the interactive map below shows which countries are entitled to the most time off work.
Use the toggle buttons on the left of the map to refine the results by paid/unpaid leave and gender for parental leave, maternity/paternity leave, sick leave, public holidays and vacation days.
Here’s a preview of 7 key stats:
- The U.S. is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee anypaid vacation.
- Cambodia, Iran and Vietnam have the most public holidays each year—27days in all.
- Bahrain offers the most annual paid leave and public holidays—49 paid days off in all.
- Latvian mothers can take 658days of paid maternity leave—more than any other country.
- Poland offers the most parental leave, with 1,792days (728 paid days and 1,064 unpaid days).
- Men in Kazakhstan can have the most unpaid time off—1,116
- Mongolia provides the most paid time off for women—3,061
12—Online Financing Solutions
BlueVine, which provides SMBs access to fast and simple online financing, is now making term loan financing available for business owners through its suite of online financing solutions. provides small- and medium-sized business owners with fast and simple access to financing to grow their businesses through BlueVine’s advanced online platform. More than 59% of businesses are looking for funds to grow their businesses, according to the 2017 Federal Reserve Small Business Credit Survey Report on Employer Firms. With a BlueVine Term Loan, business owners can quickly pursue larger projects and investments to bring their businesses to new heights.
Fast and simple term loan financing with no origination fees: BlueVine provides business owners with access to term loans from $5,000 to $250,000, without charging origination fees. It offers one simple, fixed weekly rate over a six- or 12-month term. All lines of credit and term loan financing products are issued by Celtic Bank, a Utah-chartered Industrial Bank, Member FDIC.
With BlueVine’s easy-to-use online dashboard, business owners can apply for a Term Loan online in minutes with just some basic information about the business owner and the business, and they can get approved in as fast as 10 minutes. Once the business owner accepts the offer, the funds are deposited directly into their bank account in as fast as a few hours.
Two new reports from AVANT were recently released:
State of Disruption: Powered by AVANT’s ecosystem of Trusted Advisors, this inaugural report surveyed enterprise technology leaders to assess the rate at which disruptive technologies are replacing legacy solutions, with key findings including:
- 74% of companies that see themselves as leaders in innovation rely upon Trusted Advisors for assistance in IT technology decision making
- 58% of respondents cited increased agility, flexibility and scalability as the most important reason for IT decision-making
- 74% of technology decision-makers are more likely than not to feel a cyberattack could cost them their job
2019 Cloud Channel Survey: This 2nd annual report surveyed channel sellers. AVANT compared year-over-year data to identify shared attributes and strategies among top-selling cloud partners in the channel community. Key findings from this year’s report include:
- Sellers are expanding their focus when it comes to their offerings. The average seller is expected to expand from 4 service offerings to 6 by 2020.
- Data Networks dominate the total volume of sales transactions (25%), while UCaaS/CCaaS services have catapulted two positions higher in sales volume and 10% greater in share.
- The top four services that Channel Partners expect to sell in two years are Data Networks (39%), UCaaS (67%), SD-WAN (61%) and Security as a Service (45%)—with 5G and Managed IOT emerging as areas to watch for in the future.
18—Online Vendors Look Beyond eBay and Amazon
Amazon and eBay have long ruled the online retail marketplace. Amazon, currently the largest retailer in the world, added over a million new sellers in 2018 alone. eBay currently has 25 million sellers and 250 million users. For sellers, the competition on these two giant retail sites is huge. Therefore, every online seller, who is using online retail as a source of income, is looking for alternative ways to sell online—and among other retail sites, new leaders are emerging.
For example, Etsy currently has around 32 million active buyers. Bonanza offers over 20 million product catalogue listing. Newegg, counting over 30 million customers, is one of the biggest competitors of Amazon and eBay.
There are also online retailers, oriented towards niche products. Manomano, popular for DIY and gardening supplies, has over 1.6 million products in its catalog and operates in Europe. Houzz is an online community and marketplace for home design and currently has more than 20,000 sellers and 25 million monthly visits.
How can online vendors sell their products across multiple marketplaces in the most effective way?
Multiorders, recently launched a one-stop-shop workflow-optimizing system for online vendors, allows sellers to sell across all channels with a push of a button. Multiorders offers such features as automated stock-tracking and shipping management, easy management of purchase orders, as well as the reduced cost and creation of shipping labels.
Multiorders has integrations will all popular online retail platforms, making it possible to control inventory and create shipments for multiple marketplaces in a fast and reliable way. For example, users can change price, description and stock-list, and this information will immediately appear in selected marketplaces. Multiorders also has integrations with most popular shipping companies (UPS, DPD, Royal Mail, Amazon FBA and others), so as soon as an order is received, a user can choose one shipping carrier and the order will be sent out to the buyer. Finally, the software automatically creates all necessary tools to fulfill an order – invoice, purchase order and payments.
In the end, what do online vendors gain by using such an integration platform? There are multiple benefits, among them:
1—Immediate visibility. Selling through multiple channels will make your brand recognizable. Customers who shop on different platforms will start to notice and remember your goods.
2—Wider reach. Every online platform has a huge and dedicated following – some customers can be found only on one platform. By selling on 7 platforms all at once, you will be able to significantly expand your reach
3—Increase in orders. When your visibility and reach increase, so will the number of your orders. You will be able to reach unique clients from various marketplaces.