business

14 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

 

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

1—What is the Best Number to Use in Blog Titles?

Venngage looked at 121,333 articles to see which number performs best in blogs. The infographic below reveals all.

 

2—How to Get—and Stay Motivated

Many entrepreneurs are self-motivating, others need a push. Check out the infographic below from QuickQuid, a London-based lender.

 

3—The Last-Minute Tax Tips You Need to Know

Guest post by Yu Liu, Product Manager, LinkedIn ProFinder

It’s that time of year where the calendar strikes fear in every procrastinator’s heart. April 17, 2018, the deadline to file your taxes, is right around the corner.

The worst thing to do is panic. Below are my practical tips, as well as insights from LinkedIn ProFinder financial experts, on how to hit the deadline without hitting the panic button.

First things first: Admit you have a problem and get help.  

Yes, more than 50% of Americans now prefer do-it-yourself tax prep methods such as TurboTax, according to the savings app Twine. But individuals who own a business or collect substantial freelance income should strongly consider bringing on an accountant to help them prepare a return.

“Plenty of people don’t want to go to an accountant, as they are fearful of what it takes to get through the tax filing process. But accountants are here to help them and make the process easier,” says certified public accountant (CPA) Joseph Rosenberg.

Hiring an accountant not only helps you beat this year’s tax deadline without making sloppy errors, but they can also help set the tone for future years. Mariya Luqmani, president and CEO of Mlcpas Inc. and a CPA from New York, recommends working with a tax advisor year round if possible. By entering into a permanent partnership, your advisor will have a unique understanding of what’s going on with your finances and major changes in your personal life (new baby, new home, new spouse, all three?) that can save you money come tax time.

Vet before you get set to go: A major caveat: Don’t hire someone who won’t do the job right. It’s very easy to check if an accountant is licensed. LinkedIn ProFinder features thousands of freelance accountants who have been fully vetted. Additionally, Luqmani suggests asking the advisor specific questions like what kind of background and experience they have in accounting and taxes, what security procedures they have in place to protect your confidential information, and what sorts of accounting software tools they use.

Don’t fear virtual assistance: Accountants are busy this time of year. You’re probably busy, too. Seamless virtual chat tools like BlueJeans and Skype make virtual meetings easier than ever so you can get face to face time with your accountant without a time-consuming trip to an office or coffeehouse.

“Depending on what you want an accountant for, a virtual relationship can be great,” San Francisco-based CPA Steve Rabin says. “I have some clients who I only meet with in-person once at the beginning of a relationship and some that I have never met in person.”

It’s all about the details: A smart accountant will know about deductions that do-it-yourselfers might overlook. For instance, Luqmani tells small business owners to make sure to make the correct election with respect to de-minimis safe harbor under IRC Sec 1.263(a)-1(f). This allows a business to write off up to $2,500 per invoice or item—which essentially means you can write off 100 computers bought for $2,000 each and expense $200,000 instead of capitalizing it. Luqmani advises business owners to always make the election, since it does not hurt you in any way.

If you owe more than you expect, don’t freak out: You thought you were getting a refund but instead you owe thousands and don’t have the capital to pay immediately. Take a deep breath. There’s a payment plan for that. “If a client does owe taxes they can’t immediately pay, it is still often possible, with some disclosure, to negotiate an installment payment plan over a six year period,” Rabin says.

Need more time? Ask for it: Ultimately, your tax return is a big deal. You want to get it right. You don’t want to make a stupid error that costs you money, or worse, gets you audited. “There is no shame in requesting an automatic six-month extension of the April tax deadline,” says Rabin.

But remember: An extension is provided to extend time to file your return, not to buy you more time to come up for the money you owe Uncle Sam. Both Luqmani and Rabin recommend paying the estimated tax due by the April deadline when possible.

 

4—Hot Startups

What types of startups are trending worldwide? Here are a few highlights from a report from Kempler Industries.

  • 20% of startups in the top 15 are business communication tools
  • 33% in the top 15 help users create or share content
  • India and Canada produce the most startups after the U.S.

Look at the details in the infographic below.

 

5—What to Do in a Crisis

Guest post by Josh Weiss, president, 10 to 1 Public Relations. You can reach him at [email protected]. This is the final part 0f a 4-part series.

In some ways, talking to customers and the public through the media is the easiest part of a crisis. It’s also one of the most risky as it relates to protecting your company. The job of media outlets is to share the information of what’s happening with the public, but not necessarily to share that information in the way you want.

Assuming you’ve already read the other parts of the series and already have your simplified and clarified message finalized, let’s jump right in to some best practices for talking to media during an emergency.

6 best practices for talking to media during a crisis: 

  1. Designate one spokesperson. Answers and statements to media are best when they funnel through one person to ensure consistency. When it comes to the media quoting the company, you’ll be much happier in the end if the same person is quoted in every interview. That said, every media outlet will contact your company separately for a comment. If you’re planning a press conference, let other communications team members answer calls and emails, and tell reporters to attend the media briefing for more information. The more time the spokesperson can spend doing interviews instead of scheduling interviews the better.
  2. Acknowledge questions quickly. You don’t need to know the answers, the public just needs to know you’re working on getting the answers. Failure to respond to media quickly and acknowledge an issue implies the company doesn’t know, doesn’t care, or doesn’t know what to do.
  3. Respect their timeline, not your own. Reporters have deadlines and they don’t work for you. During a crisis, think of it like you work for them. You can’t make a bad story go away, but you can make it less severe. If you make the reporter’s job harder, why would they give your company any breaks? The easiest way to stay on a reporter’s good side is to ask them what time they need an answer by, and if at all possible get them an answer before the time they request. If you know you aren’t going to have an answer in time, tell them. They will understand it takes time to get answers and it won’t always be possible by their deadline but they have a story to write or tell regardless. If you tell them late it makes it harder for them to write or tell the story, and you run the risk they’ll take that extra stress out on you and your company in the story they tell.
  4. Don’t let the CEO or other key leaders speak. This recommendation will be a surprise to many, but I believe a company leader should never be the one to explain what went wrong immediately as a crisis is occurring. Let your hired PR firm be on camera as the bad guy explaining the problem (that’s one of the services we offer for our clients to help protect them). Only after we have an answer and a solution should the CEO or leadership talk to reporters, so they can take credit for fixing the problem instead of being seen as the problem.
  5. Crow tastes better warm than cold. Mistakes happen. If you’re going to need to accept blame eventually, apologize for the mistake quickly. Why suffer extra news cycles of damage when you can shorten the window and focus on fixing the problem.
  6. Show how you fixed the problem. In the days and weeks after the crisis, share your story of how you’re fixing the problem and how you’re making sure a similar mistake never happens again. If you have new technology or equipment to avoid a future problem, announce it and add it to your website so people know the issue has been resolved. Post “thank you” notes and comments from once unhappy customers demonstrating your commitment to making things right. Highlight employees who went above and beyond to fix the problem and protect customers. Create a case study showing your commitment and ability to make changes that protect and help your customers and the public. You won’t be able to erase the initial mistake, but you can celebrate your efforts to fix it.

Finally, I would argue that during a crisis you need the media a lot more than they need you.  They’re telling the story whether you help them or not. If you want them telling the story in the least damaging way, you need to respect them, and use them to share the message you want accepted by your employees, the public and your customers.

In case you missed them, here’s Part 1 here (#8) and Part 2 (#4). And Part 3 (#2).

 

6—Rewards for Banking

Bank of America just launched Business Advantage Relationship Rewards, a new program that rewards eligible small business clients with a suite of benefits and rewards that grow as their Bank of America business deposit and/or Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment balances increase.

According to a recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 82% of entrepreneurs who receive rewards from vendors and business partners say it increases their loyalty. “We created this new rewards program to show our 3.1 million small business customers, as well as potential clients, how much we value their business while providing them with a competitive advantage,” says Sharon Miller, managing director, head of small business at Bank of America. “Through Business Advantage Relationship Rewards, we are committed to building strong, long-term relationships with our clients through a wide range of tangible benefits to help them grow their businesses and get more back from their banking.”

Clients with an eligible Bank of America business checking account, and a three-month average combined balance of $20,000 or more in qualifying Bank of America business deposit accounts and/or Merrill Edge or Merrill Lynch business investment accounts, can now enroll in Business Advantage Relationships Rewards by visiting a Bank of America financial center or calling 888.287.4637.

The program is structured into three tiers—Gold, Platinum and Platinum Honors—with increasing benefits and rewards as a client’s combined balances grow. Qualify with three-month average combined balances of $20,000 for the Gold tier, $50,000 for the Platinum tier, and $100,000 for the Platinum Honors tier. Benefits include:

  • Credit card rewards bonuses
  • No fees on select everyday banking services
  • Cash rewards on Bank of America Merchant Services processing
  • Interest rate booster on Business Advantage Savings
  • Interest rate discounts on select small business loans
  • Full-service payroll feerefunds
  • Priority client service

There is no fee to enroll in Business Advantage Relationship Rewards. For more information on the program, including terms and conditions, click here.

 

7—Who’s Building Mobile Apps?

In general, small business app growth is stagnant, a new survey by Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews firm finds. The younger small business owners are, the more likely they are to build a mobile app to support their businesses—55% of millennial-owned businesses have a mobile app, compared to 13% of small businesses owned by baby boomers.

However, the survey shows, even as more small business owners of all generations recognize the value of mobile apps, small business app growth has stagnated. In 2017, Clutch found that 42% of small businesses had a mobile app, and another 25% planned to build one by the end of the year. The 2018 survey reveals no change in the 42% of small businesses that currently have an app.

This finding does not surprise experts, given that building a well-crafted mobile app requires significant resources. “With less capital and smaller teams, I would expect these barriers to be even harder for smaller business to overcome,” says Woody Zantzinger, vice president of business development at WillowTree, Inc., a mobile app development company.

Businesses need to consider goals of mobile app: Small businesses should ensure they are building a mobile app for the right reasons. Nearly 30% of small businesses surveyed say they primarily built a mobile app to attract new customers. Experts say this objective is misguided since most customers don’t browse for apps. Rather, they seek out apps for a particular purpose.

If and when a small business decides to build a mobile app, first, say the experts, you need to clearly define your goals and target audience.

Mobile apps build on existing client relationships: Mobile apps are best for enhancing communication with existing customers, say experts. “When I think of a mobile app, companies with a lot of repeat customers benefit the most,” says Zantzinger. “If you’re going to have an app that lives ever-present on someone’s phone, that app provides businesses with new marketing opportunities to reach out to customers again and again.”

Mobile apps work well for businesses with loyalty programs. Mobile apps can keep track of rewards points, send push notifications on discounts and new products, and offer other functionalities that make existing customers even more invested in your small business.

includes 351 small business owners and managers. The small businesses surveyed have between 1 and 500 employees, with 55% indicating that they have 10 or fewer employees. More than half (57%) reported annual revenue of less than $1 million.

You can read the full Clutch 2018 Small Business Survey here.

 

8—3 Surprising Secrets to Getting Media Coverage

The experts at Pollfish, a leading mobile survey company, say you don’t have to be a “sexy” business to get media coverage. They believe “it’s not about what a brand does—it’s about the speed, savvy, and context in which the brand is presented to a journalist.”

Here are three ways to make sure your brand gets covered:

  1. Capitalize on news—don’t create it: Closely monitor current events and trends, and “newsjack” by positioning your brand within this larger context. This can be drafting a quick pitch offering your CEO as a thought leader on trending news or even presenting your brand as the amazing solution to a long-suffered problem.
  2. Collect timely data to add value: Journalists love data because it provides their readers with a tangible benefit—so run flash surveys to get compelling data that provides unique insight into the trend. Bonus: if you create an infographic to go with it, journalists will often use it as-is!
  3. Leverage timely hooks for instant coverage: Find unexpected time hooks to convince journalists to cover your brand now instead of later—from quirky holidays consumers are already celebrating to anniversaries of cultural events.

 

9—Mobile Lending Soars

An analysis of the lending behavior of nearly 150,000 small businesses by Kabbage, Inc., a global financial services, technology and data platform, shows mobile lending continues to rise. The total number of loans accessed through mobile increased by more than 360% between April 2014 and February 2018. In the same period, the total dollars accessed through mobile increased over 1,220%.

Today, 17% of all small business loans and nearly 15% of total dollars accessed via Kabbage are through mobile. At this rate, Kabbage predicts one of every five dollars funded to small businesses will be through a mobile device by the end of 2018.

Kabbage Chief Revenue Officer, Victoria Treyger says, “Small business owners are increasingly digitally savvy and are adopting new technologies faster than ever before. Lending is no different.”

You can apply, qualify and withdraw funds from the Kabbage mobile app, which is available in the App Store® and Google Play™ store. The app provides customers on-the-go access to lines of credit up to $250,000. Small business owners can apply and be qualified in less than 10 minutes. There are no up-front costs to apply, no annual fees to hold the line of credit, and customers may withdraw funds at any time.

 

Quick Takes

 

10—Productivity-Boosting Printers

Xerox recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its largest product launch ever—the  the ConnectKey portfolio. Consisting of 29 printers and multifunction printers, the devices are essentially workplace assistants equipped with a mobile-like user interface and productivity-boosting apps that enable you to do more than just fax, copy and scan. You can learn more in this blog post.

 

11—What Software Should You Buy

If you’re like me it can be overwhelming to know what software is the best for your needs. It helps to check out reviews. G2 Crowd is a B2B software review site with more than 370,000 verified reviews (they say that’s more than any other software review site). I don’t normally editorialize here, but this site is really helpful. You can tell at a glance what the ratings are. The reviews are from people, just like you, so they’re understandable. No industry speak here.

 

12—Best & Worst Cities for New Small Businesses

Lending Tree has issued a study listing the best (and worst) cities for new small businesses—businesses less than five years old. The top city—Sacramento, CA. The worst—Cincinnati, OH. For the other 48, check their blog here.

 

Cool Tools

13—Conversational AI for Sales

Zoho recently unveiled Zia Voice, the first conversational AI for sales teams that adds speech and chat capabilities to Zia, Zoho’s AI-powered sales assistant. Zia can now also predict deal closures and analyze email sentiment.

The company also introduced Catalyst, which helps businesses build and manage serverless applications and distribute them without having to worry about infrastructure or scaling. In addition, new features in Zoho CRM like Translations and Portals add to deepening their enterprise focus.

“We are delivering the first conversational AI for CRM, with Zia Voice” says Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist, Zoho. “Zia’s enhanced AI capabilities can help salespeople sell smarter, with contextual assistance and access customer information through a powerful voice and chat interface.”

Zia can talk to sales teams and help them via:

  • Interactive voice and chat-bot
  • Lead and deal prediction
  • Email sentiment analysis
  • Alerts for the best time to contact

Catalyst offers:

  • Mobile Software Development Kit (SDK)
  • Mobile Device Manager (MDM)
  • Serverless computing
  • Widgets to help businesses build custom UI components

Enterprise-ready Zoho CRM highlights

  • Portals that give customers access to their sales, past purchases, cases, and invoices in one place
  • Blueprint advancements: Blueprint now has SLA and checklist capabilities that can help managers optimize their sales processes
  • Translations:Zoho CRM users can now view their CRM data in a language that’s most comfortable to them, keeping the local flavor of every business intact

Pricing and availability: Most features are available immediately on the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Zoho CRM. Some features are being rolled out to customers in a phased manner. Zoho CRM is available in the Standard, Professional, and Enterprise Edition ranging from $12 – $45 /user/month, and the Ultimate Edition, catering specifically to large businesses, at $100 /user/month.

 

14—Building Your Email Database

Digital Direct has introduced a “hot listening tool” that allows you to build your database by “listening” in on Google searches and matching the searchers against their 1 billion+ contact database. They say they typically match 30-40% of all searches to an opt-in email that can then be put into your Digital Direct account for you to communicate with via a drip email campaign. No advertising or SEO necessary. You can read more about it here.