17 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky


1—A Complete Guide to Using Infographics for Lead Generation

When you read up about lead generation tactics, it’s not common for you to stumble upon the suggestion to create an infographic. Considering that this content type has been proven to boost website traffic by up to 12%, it’s not often optimized for lead gen strategies. If you’re ready to learn what you’re missing out on, see the infographic below for a complete guide on how to use infographics for lead generation from Spiralytics.


2—Building an Inclusive Workforce

Small businesses benefit by building a robust, diverse and competitive workforce. And according to this new report from Accenture on disability inclusion, companies that make this part of their talent strategy see 28% higher revenues, 30% higher economic profit margins & net income doubled.

Underscoring this is a report from the Department of Labor which found employers who embrace disability as a component of their talent strategy report a:

  • 90% increase in retention of valued employees
  • 72% increase in employee productivity
  • 45% increase in workplace safety

This all shows that hiring people with disabilities is simply good for business. Although 56 million Americans have a disability, and despite all the “awareness,” the unemployment rate for this disabled Americans is twice as high as those who are able-bodied (7.3% vs. 3.4%).

Given these stats, it’s obviously time to stop talking and start hiring. Employment networks like Allsup Employment Services help thousands of people with disabilities across the nation find or return to jobs, streamlining the process and completing all the paperwork. “This report pushes us to reformulate how we find skilled employees who just happen to have a disability and who can contribute to our organization’s success,” says Mary Dale Walters, senior vice president at Allsup. “They are highly motivated and available, such as former employees out on long-term disability who want to come back, and participants in the federal Ticket to Work program,” which protects Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare benefits as participants transition to full-time work.


3—Don’t Worry—It’s Costing You Money

Small business owners lose 24 working days a year due to work worries—and it’s costing you thousands, according to new research.

A new study conducted by OnePoll for Alarm.com found the average small business owner loses 44 minutes of productive work time every day due to worries about business performance, security and other areas. That adds up to an incredible 191 hours over the course of a year—the equivalent of more than a month of working days.

And it’s having a clear hit on their finances too. The average SBO studied valued their time at approximately $50 per hour, meaning that work worries cost owners nearly $10,000 annually in lost time.

The survey found the average SBO brings their work worries home with them more than three times a week, with 35% of owners admitting work worries follow them home five days a week or more. Plus:

  • 37% say work worries have spoiled an important family event or personal occasion
  • 25 worry more about their businesses when they’re away from them than when they’re at work.
  • 41% believe they worry too much about their businesses.
  • After “the economy”, the most frequent work worries are:cashflow (37%), time management/getting everything done (35%), and bills (21%). Other frequent worries include crime prevention and security, and concerns about employee trustworthiness and reliability.

“Too much worry is harmful, and it’s concerning to see that business owners, who drive the economy, are worrying so much,” says Anne Ferguson, vice-president of marketing at Alarm.com. “Business owners tend to take on many different roles and responsibilities, which can make them vulnerable to work worries. The good news is that new technologies can help owners address and even solve many of the most common work worries.”

Being worried is not a game-changer however—85% of SBOs say persistent worrying comes with the territory of being a small business owner. In fact, 74% of small business owners say they wouldn’t trade places with someone with a traditional 9-to-5 job, despite their work worries. And 62% say they’ve gotten better at managing their worries over time.

What would help alleviate some of the worries? According to respondents, the best solution is more business (49%). A vacation (26%), and an easy way to check that business tasks are getting done (18%) were other potential fixes.

“We’re not surprised that most business owners become better at managing work worries over time, as owners tend to be resourceful and good at finding ways to work smarter.,” says Ferguson. “Small businesses are often the first to adopt new tools like smart business security systems, which help owners cut costs, save time, automate troublesome tasks and stay in control even when they’re offsite.”


4—7 Tips for e-commerce Merchants to Detect Online Fraud

Guest post by Srii Srinivasan, CEO, Chargeback Gurus

Being an e-commerce business comes with its own set of unique challenges. For one, it’s very difficult to validate a real customer, and you can also face a lot of issues that come with unauthorized transactions—such as resulting chargebacks, which can cause even more financial loss.

Receiving a fraud chargeback notification can feel like a punch to the gut. And since credit card companies have put the onus on online merchants to ensure that orders have been placed by cardholders, it is incumbent on them to educate themselves on how to spot fraudulent transactions.

Here are seven tips that can help you detect online fraud:

Use Address Verification Service (AVS): Address Verification Service is an automated fraud prevention system designed to reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions. AVS compares the billing address supplied by the customer when they checkout to the address the issuing bank has on file. An AVS mismatch may be a sign of fraud, since the criminal might have limited access to the cardholder’s personal information and be unable to provide an exact match. While an AVS mismatch does not guarantee an order is fraudulent, it is an indicator that you need to take a better look at the other risk factors on the order.

Location, location, location: The transactions that are the most secure are those where the shipping address, billing address and IP address are all very close to each other. Transactions that show long distances between these different addresses should be scrutinized more carefully.

Shipping destination: Fraudsters need a way to get their stolen goods and will often ship the products to addresses other than the billing address. Orders with different billing and shipping addresses are at a much higher risk for fraud. If the destination of the goods is a freight forwarding company or even a re-shipper, that is a very big red flag.

Use of IP proxies: Fraudsters often try to mask their IP address, so you cannot see that they are placing the order from a different state or country. Utilize technology that can tell you whether the IP address is legitimate.

Google is your friend: When faced with an order that appears to be high-risk, finding the customer online with an active social media account can lessen the risk of fraud. You can also find a treasure trove of public records that can help you feel more comfortable about shipping an order with elevated risk.

Email addresses tell you more: Fraudsters usually use free email addresses that are easy to create and use once. Emails coming from domains like Gmail and Yahoo are riskier than emails from a business domain. Using a third-party service can give you more data on the email address, such as longevity.

Look out for patterns: If you see multiple failed purchase attempts in succession with different card numbers, the likelihood of a non-fraudulent transaction coming from that batch is slim. Also, once a fraudster is successful, they will try again. Be sure to blacklist the phone, email, IP address and billing address of the fraudster so they are not successful on subsequent attempts.

There are many companies with dedicated fraud prevention staff that can review all high-risk transactions. No matter the size of your business, or what method you choose, every company that sells goods or services online should have some fraud prevention strategy in place. You don’t want to learn the hard way.

Prevention of fraud—as well as the chargebacks that come with them—is crucial to operating a financially healthy business in today’s day and age.

Download your copy of An Introductory Guide to E-commerce Fraud Prevention, which covers five main types of fraud—true fraud, friendly fraud, phishing (account takeover fraud), refund fraud and card testing—and provides effective tools and strategies to combat each of them.


5—How Cancer Coverage Provides Game-Changing Benefits

Guest post by Wendy Herndon, second vice president of Product Solutions at Aflac

A few times each year, cancer becomes a significant part of the national conversation. Sometimes it is because of some new pop culture event—more than 100 movies about cancer have been produced over the past century, covering every angle of the disease from fictional portrayals to researched documentaries.1 Other times, high-profile news stories about the disease’s effects on both celebrities and everyday Americans alike capture our hearts and minds.

If these tragic stories of life and loss can have a silver lining, it is that they remind so many others to be grateful for what they have. Perhaps these accounts continue to resonate so strongly because 38.4% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.2 Everyone likely knows at least one person who has been affected by cancer—probably more. And though nobody can predict who will fall into that statistic, many may feel emboldened, particularly during February’s National Cancer Prevention Month, to do whatever they can to help prepare for that possibility.

This should be of particular importance to small business owners, who work so closely with their employees. It is no coincidence that, according to Aflac’s 2018 Small Business Happiness Survey, 95% of small-business employees believe their happiness is somewhat or very important to company leadership.3 With that in mind, it is worth questioning whether your company is doing everything it can to help support workers who might someday experience cancer.

Of course, no business owner can wave a magic wand to cure a disease, fund treatment or help with other financial needs a person with cancer faces. But one effective strategy to help your employees feel more prepared for a cancer diagnosis is offering cancer insurance in your workplace benefits package.

Receiving a hefty bill and wondering how it will possibly get paid can, understandably, add to the stress of dealing with a serious illness. And the financial burden of cancer can be immense. In fact, a 2018 study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that Americans spent more than $80 billion on cancer treatments in 2015.4 That financial weight can make life even more stressful at a time when it is paramount to stay as rested and optimistic as possible. Cancer coverage can help alleviate some of that burden by helping with expenses health insurance doesn’t cover, such as employees’ utility bills or essential day-to-day purchases.

When considering cancer policies, look for insurers like Aflac whose policies provide benefits in line with the latest developments. Keep an eye out for policies providing cancer coverage for the policyholders’ dependent children at no additional cost. Other progressive plans include coverage for procedures performed because of positive genetic testing, wellness payouts for preventative screenings and coverage for nonsurgical treatments such as immunotherapy.

For these reasons, consider bringing up cancer insurance as a potential offering the next time you discuss health care with your employees. As the employer, you can rest assured that your employees are cared for at no cost to the company’s bottom line. With those worries in check, employees and employers alike can focus more on celebrating life instead of worrying about what an illness might cost.

¹ Wikipedia. “Category:Films about cancer.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Films_about_cancer.

2 National Cancer Institute. “Cancer statistics.” https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics.

³ 2018 Aflac Small Business Happiness Report, Aflac’s survey of 1,000 small-business employees in the U.S. ages 18 and older who have been employed at an organization with 3 to 49 employees for at least one year. Visit Aflac.com/HappinessReport.

4 American Cancer Society. “Cancer Facts & Figures 2018.” https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2018/cancer-facts-and-figures-2018.pdf.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation. Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and/or American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.


6—Cybersecurity Toolkit

The Global Cyber Alliance (GCA) and Mastercard just released a new Cybersecurity Toolkit specifically designed for SMBs. This free online resource is available worldwide and offers actionable guidance and tools with clear directions about combating the increasing volume of cyberattacks.

As many as 58% of cyberattacks are targeted against small businesses, according to the 2018

Verizon Data Breach Report. These attacks include phishing, malware and ransomware—all of which can have devastating financial consequences. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):

  • Small businesses account for 99% of businesses globally, including businesses in the US, EU, and the UK.
  • Small businesses account for 70% of jobs, on average.
  • Small businesses generate more than half of the value added by most economies.

Giving small businesses tools to protect themselves from ever-evolving cyber risks not only strengthens their individual businesses but also supports the health of the entire commercial ecosystem, including governments and larger companies. Helping these small businesses be more secure by taking a few reasonable steps will significantly reduce risk for both small businesses and their partners, no matter their size or resources.

The GCA Cybersecurity Toolkit arms small business owners with basic security controls and guidance, including:

  • Operational toolsthat help them take inventory of their cyber-related assets, create and maintain strong passwords, use multi-factor authentication, perform backups of critical data, prevent phishing and viruses, and more
  • How-to materials,such as template policies and forms, training videos, and other foundational documents they can customize for their organizations
  • Recognized best practicesfrom leading organizations in the industry including the Center for Internet Security Controls, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre Cyber Essentials, the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Essential Eight, and Mastercard

“What sets the Global Cyber Alliance Cybersecurity Toolkit apart is that it is an action kit,” says Philip Reitinger, president and CEO of Global Cyber Alliance. “Our focus is on producing a dynamic clearinghouse of operational tools that help small and medium businesses address risk and improve their cybersecurity posture, leveraging the deep expertise of our network of global partners, such as Mastercard, and the experiences of actual GCA toolkit users.”

As a Development Sponsor, Mastercard has shaped the priorities and early success of the GCA Cybersecurity Toolkit, helping to make it accessible to millions around the globe. “Safety and security are core to our brand,” says Ron Green, chief security officer, Mastercard. “Every day, we are committed to developing new and better ways to keep payments safe—especially for small businesses, the lifeblood of any economy. By partnering with the Global Cyber Alliance, we’re helping entrepreneurs and business owners to better protect themselves. In that way, they can stay focused on what they do best: running and growing their business.”

The Global Cyber Alliance has partnered with several additional organizations to create the GCA Cybersecurity Toolkit, including the Center for Internet Security, the Cyber Readiness Institute, the City of London and the City of New York. The toolkit will also be regularly updated with input from users, industry experts, and public and private partners across the globe.

The Global Cyber Alliance will expand the Cybersecurity Toolkit to help other sectors address the changing cyber threat landscape. Additional launches are planned this year with support from the District Attorney of New York, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Corporation of London, Center for Internet Security and others.

For more feedback from cybersecurity leaders and influencers, check out their Global Cyber Alliance blog.


7—Small Business Grant Contest

FedEx just launched its seventh annual Small Business Grant Contest. The contest offers grants and services to 10 U.S.-based small businesses, distributing a collective prize pool of $220,500—the largest sum since the contest was established in 2012. In addition to the grants, winners also receive an additional dollar amount in credit to use towards FedEx Office print and business services to help run their businesses, as well as packages designed to help them with website optimization, design thinking, social media, and print expertise. Specifically, the 2019 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest prize packages include:

  • Grand prize: 1 winner of $50,000, plus $7,500 in FedEx Office®print and business services
  • Silver prize: 1 winner of $30,000, plus $5,000 in FedEx Office print and business services
  • Bronze prize: 8 winners of $15,000, plus $1,000 in FedEx Office print and business services

“We know it’s difficult for even the most promising of small businesses to grow and scale, especially at the beginning of their lifecycle” says Scott Harkins, senior vice president, Customer Channel Marketing at FedEx. “That’s why…this year our winners will receive much needed expertise and advice on some of the most fundamental and critical aspects of building a viable and sustainable business—and we will stay on with them as a trusted advisor as they take their businesses to the next level.”

The 2019 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is open to U.S.-based for-profit small businesses that have less than 99 employees and have been operating for six months or more. To enter, participants must go here and enter their contact information, write a short profile about their business and upload four photos of their business or product, including their logo. While not required, participants also have the option of submitting a 90-second “elevator speech” video to supplement their entry.

The contest entry period is open from February 19 to March 25, 2019, with voting to take place from February 27 to April 1, 2019.  Following a judging period, winners will be announced on April 29, 2019.


8—Businesses Doubled Down on Digital Services in 2018

Certify just released its 2018 SpendSmart™ Year in Review report, which was drawn from more the most common business and business travel expenses of 2018, including 50 million expenses and $3.3 billion in expense transactions across Certify’s North American customer base. A key takeaway from the report: Businesses are increasingly choosing digital brands over traditional providers for everything from meals to office supplies to transportation.

For the third year in a row, Uber was the most expensed brand among businesses, per Certify’s research, securing 11% of all transactions. Amazon took 3rd place for the first time with 4% of all transactions—rising from 4th place in 2017. Lyft landed in 6th place in 2018 with 2.8% of all transactions. This marks the first year that the ride hailing brand has appeared in the top 10 list. Starbucks (#2, with 4.1%), Delta (#4, with 3.6%), and American Airlines (#5, with 3.4%) round out the top six.

According to Certify’s data, Lyft was the highest-rated brand of 2018, earning an average of 4.7 “stars” out of a possible 5. Chick-fil-A and JetBlue tied for 2nd, with an average rating of 4.6 stars.

Certify’s data tells the tale. Ride hailing illustrates the strong and growing reliance by businesses and business travelers on digital brands. In January 2015, Uber and Lyft together combined for less than 50% of ride hailing transactions. In 2018, Uber and Lyft combined for nearly 92%. This growth is closely related to the cost and convenience of digital services. The average cost of a taxi ride in 2018 was nearly $9 higher per ride than Lyft and nearly $7.50 higher per ride than Uber, and the average rating for taxis was 4 stars in 2018 compared to 4.5 for Uber and 4.7 for Lyft. Meanwhile, nearly 73% of business travelers chose Uber in 2018, compared to 19% for Lyft and 8% for taxis.

Once again meals were the most expensed category by businesses in 2018, accounting for 17.2% of all transactions. Even meals are being impacted by digital brands—as more and more corporate employees choose to have food delivered to their offices or hotels. According to Certify’s research, the food delivery category grew 118% from 2017 to 2018. Grubhub led the way with 36% of transactions, followed by Uber Eats with 25% and DoorDash with 21%. Seamless was the highest rated food delivery service, with an average rating of 4.8 compared to 4.7 for Uber Eats.

“Enterprise-wide adoption of sharing economy services—due to convenience, efficiency, and price—are key drivers for this shift,” says Robert Neveu, CEO of Certify. “The sharing economy vendors have rapidly adopted offerings to target the business traveler and have made it even easier to consume their services across large and enterprise organizations.”


9—Small Business Owners Look Ahead

QuickBridge asked small business owners what they think is in store for the economy in general and for their businesses.

Key highlights:

  • 60% think the economy will grow
  • 28% say it will remain flat
  • 13% expect it to decline
  • 83% say their businesses will grow
  • 15% expect their growth to be flat
  • 2% say it will decline

How the new tax law will affect their businesses

  • 49% say the law will have no impact
  • 35% think it will reduce their taxes
  • 17% expect it to increase their tax burden

Staffing plans

  • 56% plan to add staff
  • 43% aren’t hiring
  • 3% will reduce staff

Biggest challenge

  • 41% getting money
  • 29% increasing profits
  • 23% growth
  • 21% hiring

How they find the financing process offered by online lenders vs. traditional lenders

  • 53% says it’s fairly easy
  • 24% find it difficult
  • 23% say it’s very easy

If they got funding, what would they spend it on?

  • 43% would expand
  • 32% would acquire equipment
  • 31% will consolidate debt and/or pay off loans
  • 27% buy materials and/or inventory


10—Seniors Surf the Net

While seniors don’t have the same level of internet adoption as millennials, recent studies have shown that they’re more connected than ever—over 70% of internet users aged 65+ go online at least once a day. And baby boomers spend roughly 27 hours online every week.

There’s more to learn in the infographic below from MedAlertHelp. (BTW, if your small business is targeting the senior market, don’t call them “elderly”.)


Quick Takes


11— Marketing Plan

You can’t grow your business if you don’t market it, and you can’t market effectively unless you have a marketing plan. Take a look at What Is A Marketing Plan and How to Make One from Venngage. There are over 20 marketing plan templates too.


12—2019 Cybersecurity Trends

If you want to know the to expect this year in cybersecurity Aaron Walker says it’s about Zero Trust, Biometrics, IoT, and GDPR. Check out what he has to say in his post on G2 Crowd.


13—Guide to Marketing on Instagram

Instagram is the fastest-growing social platform. So how do you take advantage of it as a marketing platform. Check out The Complete Instagram Marketing Guide from Photoslurp.


14—Preventing Identity Theft

Are you worried about getting your identity stolen? Check out this Identity Theft Protection Guide from Consumer Affairs.


15—Best Mobile Card Readers

If you’re in the UK and want to know about the best mobile card readers for your small business, check out the post from Merchant Savvy.


Cool Tools


16—The Fastest Autopilot-Run Bulk Email Verification Tool

mailfloss, a Canada-based web services startup, recently launched an easy-to-setup and easy-to-use bulk email validation tool for busy email marketers and businesses. It automatically cleans and verifies email lists to ensure emails reach subscribers’ inboxes. The setup takes only 60 seconds and you have to do it only once. Simply connect your Email Service Provider (ESP), set your preferences, mailfloss handles the rest—no more remembering to upload your csv files and paying exorbitant fees.

Once setup is complete, all new emails that come into the connected ESP get validated, keeping your email lists squeaky clean. This helps to maximize email deliverability and ROI.

“Bulk email verification can have an astronomical ROI, but it is a slow, manual, and painful process that most marketers don’t enjoy,” says Martin Wong, founder of mailfloss. “At mailfloss, we take the manual process and pain out of it with a ‘set-it and forget-it’ approach, so you can focus on your business and marketing instead of worrying about invalid emails.”

With mailfloss, you can also customize what gets automated, whether to delete or unsubscribe your contacts, add whitelists and blacklists, or check your analytics.


17—New BI Platform

Energybox, the digital global leader that specializes in IoT monitoring and data analytics technology, just released new software, which tracks equipment and facilities across multiple locations in real-time. It focuses on improving efficiency for businesses with real-time equipment monitoring, increases efficiency by reducing day-to-day operational frictions, and enables consistency and quality across all platforms with real-time critical alerts and diagnostics sent directly to an email or text.

“At Energybox, we are always investing in our research and development with a key goal to allow our multi-unit enterprise customers to simplify their businesses by automating their operations and processes,” says Tony Carrella, cofounder and president of Energybox. “Many of our customers have multiple locations, across the globe. With the new software, we are able to provide a highly flexible platform that enables our customers to easily add features and functionalities that are tailored to their specific needs. This enhanced level of flexibility ensures that Energybox will help our customers grow and adapt to dynamic and changing business conditions.”

The new software offers powerful energy and operational monitoring solutions that collect real-time data from wireless sensors, which is then processed, aggregated, and stored in an encrypted and secured Energybox cloud. Along with an integrated data system, the software allows users to easily interface with existing software tools and applications. With the latest update, our customers are able to interpret the data collected to improve efficiency, save money, mitigate risk, and use valuable resources more efficiently.

Business stock photo by Dima Sidelnikov/Shutterstock