business

20 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

1—Using Content Intelligence

Marketers are increasingly turning to content intelligence (CI) to help them create  better content marketing strategies, predicting audience behavior, and more. According to Spiralytics, CI is “Essentially, anything that helps content marketers automate processes and optimize data from releasing content falls under content intelligence. The framework is possible with the right tools that aid in content production and help marketers cook up more interesting topics for their audience.”

Since 92% of marketers view content as a definite asset for their business, it’s crucial you know what CI is and the best tools for using it. Check out the infographic below to learn more.

 

2—Making Small Business Financial Management Easier

What small business owner wouldn’t want to be able to more easily manage the various financial aspects of their businesses? Bank of America just introduced Business Advantage 360, a new digital dashboard designed to do just that. Available for the first time to any Bank of America client with a business account, Business Advantage 360, which is easily accessible on mobile devices, provides a total view of business cash flow and access to real-time expertise and guidance—all in one simple tool.

“Business Advantage 360 will help entrepreneurs save time and money, by providing a more complete financial picture of their businesses,” says Sharon Miller, managing director, head of small business at Bank of America. “It will allow our clients to focus on the reasons they opened their business in the first place.”

Business Advantage 360’s cash flow solution makes it simple for small business owners to:

  • Track credit and debits through integrated Bank of America account information
  • Receive automatic cash flow projections based on scheduled transactions
  • Manually adjust cash flow projections to account for additional data, such as new sales
  • Set cash flow thresholds and alerts, creating time for proactive adjustments
  • Easily connect with experienced small business bankers for guidance

And there’s more to come. In the future, the tool will deepen the cash flow insights, provide general market research and analysis, and enable clients to manage items such as payroll and human resources, payments and invoices, merchant services, tax accounting, goal-setting and forecasting.

Business Advantage 360 is built directly into the Bank of America online and mobile banking platforms and will be available to all clients by the end of February. The no-cost tool does not require enrollment and is accessible through a link on the main pages of the Bank of America online and digital banking portals for small business clients.

In addition to Business Advantage 360, Bank of America offers a streamlined small business mobile lending experience and launched Business Advantage Relationship Rewards, the most comprehensive multi-product rewards program available in the small business banking space.

 

3—5 C’s to Help You Conquer the New World of Work

Guest post by Paul Pluschkell, Chief Strategy Officer, Braidio, a leading workstream intelligence platform

When we hear the term network effects, the discussion is generally around consumer-oriented environments, but there is little discussion of this effect in [business environments]. But there are huge benefits in empowering your employees and being more transparent to unlock innovation and efficiencies.

At Braidio we have mapped the 5 C’s of network effects to help businesses conquer the new world of work:

1—Communication: Provide your employees convenient access to information regardless of where that information resides. Often, information resides across different silos within an organization—look for ways to provide a centralized view of knowledge and information.

2—Collaboration: Empower your organization with easy means to collaborate using chat, voice, and video collaboration tools. Additionally, ensure that your teams can quickly query and search these conversation threads for reference later on.

3—Connection: Create an environment that makes it easy to connect with colleagues based on interests or areas of expertise. Your employees are your biggest source of intellectual capital, so unlock that value and empower your employees to share knowledge and to “solutioneer” together.

4—Curation: Much of the knowledge created by organizations is informal by nature. Businesses need to capture that knowledge through tools that index and make that information searchable.

5—Community: Most businesses have tools or services to do some or all of the above, but often they are siloed experiences that create friction within their daily workflows. Look for ways to consolidate some or all of the above experiences to maximize productivity and enhance value.

 

4—How to Get Better at Small Talk

Are you good at making small talk? Not everyone is—I know I’m not. Take a look at the infographic below from OnStride Financial and learn how to be a good small talker.

 

5—Cash Flow Woes & Making Payroll

According to a new study from Intuit, The State of Small Business Cash Flow, 61% of global small businesses struggle with cash flow, and 32% are unable to either pay vendors, pay back pending loans, or pay themselves or their employees due to cash flow issues. This, despite recent tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks and other stimulus policies, with 42% of small business owners saying they’ve experienced cash flow issues in the last year. Plus, 69% of small business owners say they have been kept up at night by ongoing concerns about their cash flow status.

“Every day, small business owners fight to deliver amazing products and services for their customers, but…the odds are stacked against them,” says Alex Chriss, General Manager, Small Business and Self-Employed at Intuit. “The top reason for [business] failure is the cash flow crunch and lack of flexible options.”

Stunting business and economic growth: The impact that negative cash flow has on small businesses is profound. Many small companies are operating on margins so thin that frequent lost opportunities will put them on the path to closing shop. On average, U.S. small business owners lose $43,394 annually by foregoing a project or sales due to issues created by insufficient cash flow. And 52% of small businesses have lost $10,000 or more for the same reasons.

Plus, one-third of small businesses aren’t able to pay vendors, loans or employees, which damages the very relationships small businesses and the self-employed depend on to succeed. In fact, labor costs, like paying employees or contractors, are often the single largest expense for small businesses. Among those who’ve experienced cash flow issues, 43% have been at risk of not being able to pay their employees by payday.

What’s driving cash flow problems? For those that struggle with cash flow, the problem isn’t not having funds in the pipeline—it’s that they don’t have the funds readily available for real-time expenses. One third of SBOs estimate their companies currently have more than $20,000 in outstanding receivables, and the average U.S. small business has $53,399 in outstanding receivables.

The report shows the problem with the large number of receivables lies in the billing process. For example, globally 53% of small businesses bill customers for goods/services on a specific date, compared to 47% that utilize advanced payment—charging customers for goods/services before or at the time of receiving them. And, 66% say the time it takes the money to process after receiving a payment has the largest impact on their company’s cash flow. Finally, 31% estimate it takes more than 30 days to get paid, by customers, clients, vendors or banks. During this month of lag businesses still need to cover expenses—thus creating cash flow woes.

To help mitigate the situation, Intuit QuickBooks is delivering services and features that help businesses get money as soon as possible, which includes everything from payments-enabled invoicingsame day payroll services and loans up to $100,000 based on data within QuickBooks.

 

6—Top Trends Driving Retail Store Growth In 2019

What are the top trends affecting retail this year? Dan Hodges, founder & CEO of Retail Store Tours says “in curating hundreds of stores and retail formats in the last year we discovered the winning factors, including employee training, retail environment, use of technology, business model, store design, customer management, brand story, unique concept, the human touch and change.” Here is a summary of their findings.

The Human touch: Apple Stores hires sales associates based on their kindness and evaluates them based on customer empathy. Microsoft retail hires sales associates who are both entertaining and informative. It is noteworthy that two of the leading technology retailers are focused on the human touch as a business strategy.

Use of technology: Customer engagement technology that interacts with shoppers in-store is a winning play. Sephora’s Color IQ allows a shopper to select make-up while looking at themselves with Color IQ instore. Apple’s sales associates use customer management software that increases responsiveness to customers, resulting in satisfaction and more time in the store. Sales associates who are knowledgeable in product and empathetic to customers are the winning in retail stores today.

Employee training: Apple, Sephora, Tiffany and other leading retailers are constantly training their employees to update their product knowledge and people skills. They use a combination of daily questions and formalized classroom training.

Business model: Companies focused on personalization and customization are winning in the marketplace. Two examples are Bonobos, which is an in-store showroom where men are helped to select clothes with an in-store stylist and Untucket which is a business where the shoppers are styled and sized in the store using a number of pre-sized shirts.

Store design: The Apple store design features a minimalist approach which is a highly engaging environment. The Ray-Ban store is a multi-experience store where you can have your eyes examined and select a custom frame personalized to your taste. The Sonos store uses sound and environment to create an immersive sound experience. Sephora uses the store experience augmented by technology which is integrated into the store design.

Customer management: All tier one stores have store associates who use the personal touch combined with technical tools to engage and co-create the shopping experience. Aldo uses technology to connect the front-end sales associate tools with the back-end inventory. Aldo utilizes in-store technology where customers can engage directly with the products in the store and curate the styles and inventory themselves.

Brand story: All winning retail stores have a unique brand DNA story that was born out of a market need or a visionary founder. Tiffany, Sugarfina, Untucket, B8TA, Warby Parker, All Birds, Amazon are some examples of the many brands that have a unique reason for being.

Unique value proposition: The Real Real, B8ta, Everlane, Alo Yoga, Brooklinen, 3×1 and The Apartment are all distinctive offerings with a unique concept and focused purpose. These stores offer unique products and buying experiences not found elsewhere.

Change: Retailers built to capitalize on rapidly changing consumer behaviors and trends are winners. The future belongs to the fast movers and their ability to adapt their business models. Story is an example of a store that changes its entire product offerings many times during the year. Nike’s Flagship store is another example where customers can buy online and pick-up in store in their own, secure locker. This allows the shoppers to grab and go.

Check out the video overview.

 

7—State of Family Businesses

PwC’s 9th Private Company Services (PCS) US Family Business Survey has been tracking data on the most important issues facing family businesses for 18 years. This year’s survey focused on continuity and succession planning, or more specifically a lack of planning.

The survey shows 79% of family businesses expect to deliver steady growth over the next two years, 62% of respondents plan to pass on management and/or ownership to the next generation, but just 18% have a robust succession in place, putting tens of thousands of people whose jobs depend on these continuity plans at risk. Also, the pace of digital disruption is pushing family business leaders to rethink their tactics—47% plan to bring in outside expertise to help run the company and spur innovation in the coming years.

So, what can companies do to ensure the right plans are put in place today to protect for the future?

According to Jon Flack, leader of the PCS Family Business Services practice, family business leaders should take several steps to put in place succession plans, including:

  • Develop a 3-5- year strategic plan for the business, which helps crystalize the need for a succession plan
  • Consider creating a Board of Directors that can provide outside perspective and counsel
  • Prepare the next generation to lead as a safeguard for business continuity through planning that incorporates leadership and management well into the future.
  • Identify and address the emotional hurdle that many family businesses face—thinking it’s ‘too soon’ to address succession or the family is ‘not yet ready’ to have the discussion. Once confronted, many families find it easier to move the conversation away from an emotional decision to a practical business decision.

You can learn more in this Flack’s LinkedIn blog post here.

 

8—Social Media Interaction

According to the survey, How People Interact on Social Media, appearing on The Manifest, 30%  of social media users interact at least 10 times a day by either liking, sharing, or posting content. The report shows that social media is now part of people’s everyday routines because it helps them build a community with others around the world.

People prefer to post images on social media: Images are the only content type that more than half of social media users regularly post. Nearly 70% of users post images, compared to 47% who post updates/announcements, 46% who post videos, and 42% who post opinions.

Other key findings:

Although interacting with other people’s content is important to most social media users, 94% post their own content; 42% post at least once a day.

52% of people use Facebook the most often among social media platforms, followed by YouTube (16%) and Instagram (14%).

 

9—Playing Hooky: Sick or Just Sick of Work?

January is behind us—which is good news for small businesses. According to O.C.Tanner, January is the most popular time for employees to call in “sick” to work. O.C. Tanner recently asked 1workers across the country about their tendencies to fake illness in order to get out of work for the day. Of those surveyed, 31% say they’ve called in “sick” when they were not actually feeling physically ill.

The top excuses for playing hooky are to rest/relax and spend time with family. According to the report, the data suggest those who do skip work are generally more dissatisfied with the business and less likely to recommend the company to others as a great place to work.

O.C. Tanner suggests there “will be a spike in ‘sick’ workers and time off through February. You should consider using this time of year to evaluate team satisfaction and be especially sensitive to employee frustrations and/or potential burnout.

Key findings

Of those who have called in “sick”:

  • 68% call in “sick” to work less than once a year
  • 15% of respondents call in “sick” once every three to six months
  • 12% of respondents call in “sick” once a year
  • 5% of respondents call in “sick” once a month or more

Top months for calling in “sick”:

  • January: 23% 2
  • December: 19%
  • February: 11%
  • July: 10%
  • June: 7%

Top reasons for calling in “sick”—to:

  • Rest and relax: 50%
  • Spend time with family: 30%
  • Run personal errands: 21%
  • Avoid traveling to work in bad weather: 17%
  • Spend time with friends: 7%
  • Avoid a specific work event (e.g., meeting, presentation, call, etc.): 5%

33% feel guilty when they call in “sick”, while 26% never feel guilty

Workplace satisfaction of those who’ve called in “sick”:

45% say productivity and bottom lines are much more important to their organizations than people

40% do not trust their senior leaders

35% say their jobs have a negative effect on their physical health

34% agree their situation at work is hurting their ability to be happy in other aspects of their life

 

10—Maximizing the Power of Automated Locker Systems in 2019

Package Concierge®, the innovator of the automated locker system, released its predictions for 2019, including what the multifamily industry and retailers are expecting in order to make the most of the expanding automated locker solutions. Consumers spent $850 billion this holiday season, including $110.5 billion online, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. As a result, shipping also grew—UPS estimates it delivered 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, up 5% from the same period last year.

“2018 was a tipping point for automated locker systems, as evidenced by big moves from retail giants who have adopted them as a strategy for growth in the last year,” says Georgianna Oliver, founder of Package Concierge. “These systems are becoming a critical part of the supply and delivery chain across multiple industries—from apartment buildings using lockers to mitigate clutter and increase security, to businesses using them for receipt of after-hours delivery, and retailers adopting them to capitalize on the buy online pick up in store movement.”

Here are three strategies Package Concierge has outlined to help businesses looking to integrate an automated locker system in 2019:

Location, location, location: Location truly matters—installations should be visible, easy to access, and ideally, available for 24/7 convenient access. Utilizing an automated locker that provides a common platform for both indoor/outdoor installation allows for greater installation location flexibility. New Package Concierge data shows 83% of customers would prefer 24/7 access to a locker in order to increase utilization of the solution.

Go BIG or go home: Don’t limit your potential for using these systems. Oversized lockers are almost always necessary to accommodate a wide-range of goods and packages as online orders for everything from jewelry and running shoes to large bags of dog food and king-size comforters to full pallets of large packages of paper towel rolls are being delivered regularly. Ensuring a sufficient number and size of lockers is vital to satisfying today’s savvy shopper.

Future-proofing: To manage seasonal trends and shifts in packages processed, it pays for businesses to seek out systems that can accommodate changing locker needs. Businesses, apartment buildings and retailers should future proof their locker investment by seeking solutions that can accommodate the ebbs and flows of packages. The Package Concierge patent-pending Configurable Locker Compartments feature provides flexibility for dynamic needs by allowing users to simply swap out different door sizes and remove or add shelves to easily adjust the quantity and size of lockers from the same base system.

 

11—U.S. Wage Growth Remains Steady

Wages for U.S. workers grew 3.4% over the last year, increasing the average wage level by $0.93 to $28.06 an hour, according to the recently released ADP Research Institute Workforce Vitality Report (WVR). The growth, steadying at 3.4% annual as of December 2018, was driven by strong wage gains for workers in the education and health services industry, representing 19% of the workforce, (4.1% wage growth, $27.05 average hourly wage) and trade, representing 22% of the workforce, (4.4% wage growth, $24.56 average hourly wage). Businesses with less than 50 employees experienced the slowest wage growth (2.0%, $26.06).

“As the labor market sits at full employment, we continue to see an overall slowdown in job switching across the majority of industries,” says Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “One industry defying the market trend is finance, which has experienced a steady uptick in job switching.  This acceleration is driven primarily by younger workers.”

Workers in the West and Northeast outpaced other two regions with 3.7% wage growth but West had the highest employment growth at 2.7%. Workers in the South had the lowest wage growth at 3.0% and Midwest had the worst employment growth at 0.9%.

The WVR also reveals that 20.5% of U.S. employees successfully switched firms in the last year. This highlights an overall slowdown in job switching. However, job switching in the finance industry is accelerating, where more than 18.6% of workers in the industry switched firms in the last year.

We have seen wage growth for all job switchers gradually accelerating during this same time period, currently at 5.4%.

To see detailed workforce vitality components for the fourth quarter of 2018, including data broken down by region, firm size, industry, gender, and age, go here. The first quarter 2019 ADP Workforce Vitality Report will be released April 24.

 

Quick Takes 

12—12 Local Search Trends

80% of consumers conduct local searches at search engines. Here are 12 local search trends you cannot (nor should not) ignore, courtesy of Cardinal Digital Marketing.

 

13—VPN Tool

Interested in VPNs? Check out the review of Ivacy here.

 

14—Podcast for Small Business Owners

The Growth Lab is a new podcast connecting entrepreneurs to the smartest minds in business. It comes from LOCALiQ, USA TODAY’s marketing solutions group. The podcast will feature expert guests, such as Peter Shankman, Jeremy Goldman and Ted Rubin, who will speak to their experiences in growing their own ventures, breaking down step-by-step adaptable tips and strategies to ignite business growth for anyone looking to, well, grow!

New episodes will be released weekly—and each episode will include a downloadable “lab notes” guide that shows you how to immediately put into practice key takeaways from each guest.

You can listen to the first episode here:

 

15—Digital Platform Designed to Support Small Businesses

Cerity is taking a digital-first approach to business insurance, offering quotes and coverage policies through a desktop and mobile-friendly platform. Visitors to the website can generate a quote in seconds and secure their business in under five minutes.

Powered by a complex algorithm, Cerity’s proprietary pricing model provides tailored quotes that address the individual needs of business owners.

“Our digital solution was built from scratch, exclusively to meet the needs of small businesses.  Every aspect of what we do is anchored to the small business perspective,” says Tracey Berg, president of Cerity. “Cerity’s predictive pricing model has up to 100 price points, making each quote as unique as the businesses we protect. Customers can rest easy knowing they are getting the right coverage for the right price.”

 

Cool Tools

 

16—New App Unleashes Creativity

Lightricks, innovators of digital editing applications for mobile platforms, just launched its  latest app, Swish. Targeted to small businesses and creators on-the-go, Swish provides an easy-to-use resource for small businesses looking to make an impact online and more effectively market their brands without hefty graphic design or video editing fees.

Lightricks has revolutionized mobile photography. Until now, the company built content creation tools for users who use their apps for fun or as an artistic hobby, but the new app is designed for businesses owners, social media managers, or anyone who creates online marketing content.

The app redefines the way mobile users create content by incorporating a variety of video editing tools proven successful in previous apps, while infusing additional functionality and customizations tailored to businesses. Swish combines the easy-to-navigate tools that give users the convenience of simple video creation, plus access to sophisticated layouts that enable professional-style videos to be created directly on mobile devices.

Features include:

Videos: Over 75 templates for easy-to create videos.

Music: Choose from a huge variety of free beats motivational tunes, relaxing rhythms, corporate jingles and more. Tap mute to stick with a clip that’s only visual.

Content: Select from an endless list of Getty Images or the user’s own videos and pictures for custom projects.

Customizable: Users can choose from 1 to 5 slides to produce unique content varying in length and complexity. They can edit fonts and add text to convey their own branded message.

Categories: Cater directly to a target audience. Finding a template designed for your industry is easy with categories that range from Fashion & Beauty, to Health & Wellness, Sports & Fitness, and more.

Format variations: Ability to select between 1:1, 16:9, 9:16 screen formats to accommodate multiple social platforms.

Swish is available for free or with subscription on the App Store. Subscribers can enjoy unlimited templates, added regularly and get a 50% discount on all Getty stock images and videos.

 

17—Need a Website?

BLUX is a website builder that helps website developers create completely custom websites without coding or servers, with perfect Google page speed scores and W3C code validation, awesome SEO capabilities and results.

Blux is designed to create very fast static websites published on to Amazon’s cloud (AWS). These responsive websites can easily include 3rd party tracking or integration scripts that include pasting code into the body or header.

 

18—Enhancing Workstream Collaboration

WorkJam, a leading digital workplace solutions provider, recently completed its acquisition of Peerio Technologies, a leading provider of employee communication software with one of the most secure messaging and file sharing technology platforms on the market today.

By acquiring Peerio and its entire workforce, WorkJam is investing in building the market’s most complete enterprise class digital workplace platform—one that unifies the employee experience across an ever-growing number of channels, devices, and touch points.

With this acquisition, WorkJam is enhancing its existing team communication and workstream collaboration capabilities with secure live chat enabling teams to connect and collaborate more effectively than ever before. In addition, the secure document and content sharing capabilities will enable teams to stay productive by making it easier to share documents in a centralized workspace.

With the acquisition of Peerio, WorkJam delivers an even more robust Digital Workplace solution, complete with the highest-level of security and data privacy. The platform delivers greater security than traditional enterprise-grade communication applications and exceeds existing security standards, including those imposed by the military and the healthcare, financial services, and legal sectors.

With Peerio, WorkJam provides users with three different secure modes of communication: Live Chat, Channels, and Messaging. The live chat feature provides a secure way for corporate and frontline team members to message instantly with each other to communicate about day-to-day activities and also securely share files in a chat format. The messaging feature allows communication to be sent directly to a users’ in-box and the channels feature provides the ability to post targeted communications to different segments of the non-desk workforce or by topic area and allows feedback through channel post comments and likes. These modes of communication allow corporate headquarters personnel to communicate directly to the frontline employees and frontline employees to communicate between each other.

 

19—New Social Commerce Tool

TicketSocket, a leading white label ticketing, registration and data marketing company, just released Ice Cream Social (ICS), the industry’s first social commerce tool that utilizes affiliate marketing concepts to turn every customer into a promoter. The powerful social invite tool allows vendors to increase sales via customer referrals that incentivize their network of friends, turning customers into influencers and their connections into leads. This system seamlessly integrates with ecommerce sites to track conversions and aggregate customer data, encouraging increased and long-term repeat transactions.

While typical marketing referral tools are hindered by unwelcoming user interfaces and access to the data that is gathered, ICS breaks the mold by refining marketing technology with a customer-first approach:

Ice Cream Social gives converted customers an elegant and intuitive interface to share recent purchase pages with friends via Facebook, email, or SMS—with an incentive to make it worth their while. Rewards are easily customized by the vendor, and conversion tracking is completely integrated. Installation only requires pasting a brief Java code into a vendor site.

The conversions and shared referrals tracked by Ice Cream Social give vendors access to a wealth of potential customer data, allowing for unprecedented lead growth. Data privacy is a top priority for TicketSocket as well, which is why all marketing data aggregated by Ice Cream Social belongs solely to each vendor.

Vendors have full access to and ownership of all data collected. Detailed analytics dashboards and campaign management tools optimally organize the information collected to illuminate valuable and actionable insights.

 

20—Create a “Smart” Store

Want your retail store to be more like the big box retailers that have created a “smart” environment for their customers, including Wi-Fi, content streaming, and targeted advertising?

Veea, Inc., through its VeeaHub Smart Store, is offering small businesses the ability to get “smarter”. The VeeaHub Smart Store is a complete hardware and software solution, replacing existing Wi-Fi access points and other on-premise point solutions, through a single convergence device. Through VeeaHub Smart Store, stores can connect all “smart” systems through their hybrid mesh, while providing bandwidth management and enhancing internet connectivity, all at a lower operational cost.

Small business stock photo by Fh Photo/Shutterstock