15 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1) Love is in the Air
In honor of Valentine’s Day let’s talk about what some may say is “looking for love in all the wrong places.” In this case the wrong place is the workplace. Dating at work is often frowned upon, but that doesn’t stop all that many co-workers from getting involved. Manta, an online community dedicated to small business, wanted to find out: How many small business owners mix business with pleasure? Here are the key findings of Manta’s poll:
Most (53 percent) of small business owners currently work (or have worked) with a significant other
Of the respondents who are/have become involved with a colleague:
- 66 percent say co-working has had a positive impact on their relationships
- 20 percent say there has been no impact
- 12 percent say working together has had a negative impacted on the relationship
Most (58 percent) small business owners say they have the work/love balance figured out, while 31 percent regularly choose work over their romantic relationships and a measly 10 percent put their relationships ahead of work.
Most small business owners (57 percent) say a workplace romance made keeping the romance alive easier, while 42 percent disagreed.
2) Borrowers’ Bill of Rights
I couldn’t agree with this more. Brayden McCarthy, the head of policy and Advocacy at Fundera, an online marketplace that connects borrowers and lenders, says we need a Borrowers’ Bill of Rights that includes the things “borrowers deserve when looking for a loan,” such as being able to find and understand the terms.
3) Need for Speed!
Americans are amazingly impatient. How impatient are we? Well a new survey from Fifth Third Bank shows we suffer from “rampant extreme impatience “with everyday tasks:
- 96 percent of us knowingly consume extremely hot food or drink that burns our mouths and 63 percent do so frequently
- Over 50 percent hang up the phone after being on hold one minute or less
- 71 percent frequently speed to get to our destinations faster
- Nearly one-third if those ages 18-24 wait less than one second before bypassing a slow walker
- Millennials check their phones an average of eight times when waiting to hear back from someone they’ve dated
This “need for speed” inspired Fifth Third to launch a new mobile app that shaves time off routine banking activities from checking balances to making deposits.
4) Helping Women Vets
Last month in NYC, two groups came together to help women veterans. Women Veteran’s Empowerment Day was hosted by Stand Beside Them, a nonprofit that provides free life, career, small business and wellness coaching for veterans and their families and Startups in Stilettos, a networking group that brings together dynamic young female entrepreneurs to share ideas, inspire, motivate, and learn from each other.
According to a recent report by Disabled American Veterans, female veterans face higher rates of unemployment than their male counterparts and non-veteran women and higher rates of homelessness than non-veteran women. There are also fewer resources available for those in need of care for PTSD, military sexual trauma, and even basic health care.
5) Selling at Peak Price
According to a report by BizBuySell.com Insight, sales of small businesses grew 6 percent from 2013 to 2014. That trend is expected to continue this year. Of when you sell, your goal is to sell your business for top dollar.
Tom Jones, the chair of the corporate practice group at Chamberlain Hrdlicka in Atlanta reveals how to get the most out of the sale of a business:
- Make sure the books are in order. Sloppy books can scare away buyers, especially sophisticated ones, like private equity firms. Make sure everything is GAAP compliant, and as a failsafe, get audited financials for several recent years to make the business more attractive.
- Protect the intellectual property of the business and trademark your company name, make sure all patents are up to date and get copyright protection for any new developments or projects.
- Get the timing right. Unfortunately many business owners wait until a catastrophic event has occurred, or wait until the business is trending downward to decide to sell. The best time to sell a business is when it is doing well.
- Know what truly makes a business valuable and sustainable over time in the eyes of the buyer, including multiple sources of income, a healthy customer base and a solid management team in place.
- Understand what the business is truly worth in the marketplace by getting several independent valuations done by reputable firms.
- Finally, if management decides against selling due to a low offer or other reason, the good news is that none of these efforts will have been done in vain. These steps will ultimately make the business stronger and sustainable for the future.
6) Optimism Soars, Part 1
The first quarter Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index was just released, showing that optimism continues on an upward trend. The latest Index score increased to +71 in January, up from +58 in November. This is the highest level of the Index since the beginning of 2008 when it was +83. Small business owners are feeling more upbeat today than any other time in the past seven years.
Why are small business owners feeling so positive?
- Revenue: 49 percent of small business owners reported their revenues increased a little or a lot over the past 12 months, up from 37 percent a year ago.
- Cash flow: Business owners saw modest improvements in their cash flow over the past 12 months, with 54 percent rating their company cash flow as very or somewhat good, compared to 52 percent in the first quarter of 2014.
- Hiring: 19 percent of small business owners increased the number of jobs at their companies over the past year. Just 11 percent reported a decrease in jobs, down from 16 percent in last quarter’s survey.
- Credit: The ability to obtain credit also improved, with 34 percent of survey respondents reporting that it was somewhat or very easy to obtain credit over the past 12 months, up from 30 percent in November 2014, and 28 percent a year ago.
7) Optimism Soars, Part 2
According to the most recent Business Confidence Survey released by Insperity, Inc., small business owners started this year off feeling very optimistic. They plan to add employees, increase compensation and boost sales. In fact, half the businesses surveyed planned to hire and 47 percent will maintain current staffing levels.
Most business owners (61 percent) expect their sales to increase, while 24 percent anticipated no change. Only 10 percent thought their sales would decrease. And 87 percent expect to meet or exceed their 2014 performances. Nearly 40 percent say the state of the economy won’t affect their bottom line, while 25 percent say it will help increase their earnings.
The business owners did have some concerns: Hiring the right people and the economy ranked at the top of the list of short-term concerns (47 percent each). Controlling overall operational costs (41 percent) and rising health care costs (40 percent) rounded out the lists. Long-term concerns included government expansion and its effect on business, potential tax increases, the federal deficit and the total national debt and national security.
8) Getting SaaSy
Mavenlink, a leading global provider of enterprise-grade business and project management software, recently announced several new product capabilities and unveiled a new brand identity to further strengthen the company’s mission to be the most effective solution for managing professional services businesses.
Mavenlink’s new suite of capabilities includes a unique tool that enables businesses to replicate successful projects and instantly customize what they need for new ones. In addition, a powerful customization architecture allows clients to tailor Mavenlink to the unique aspects of their businesses and seamlessly integrate with other applications.
Mavenlink CEO, Ray Grainger says, “Mavenlink applies best practices from the best-run services businesses. Our technology finally brings together projects, people, and processes so that project managers can also be profit managers.” The new features include:
Redesigned User Interface—Mavenlink’s feature set is now even more accessible through an intuitive updated user interface designed so that it’s easy to navigate and get work done.
Improved Custom Branding—Customers can customize Mavenlink by styling the product with their own brand. New enhancements provide customized navigation to other applications from within Mavenlink.
Universal Custom Data Fields—Customers can create new fields to tailor business data and customize Mavenlink for their business processes.
Project Templates—Customers can create a project, clone it in a matter of seconds and customize it for new client engagements. Project Templates also enable businesses to offer a menu of defined project-based services to a client, knowing exactly what they cost to deliver. Templates can be created from past projects, allowing customers to replicate and repeat projects successfully.
Time and Expense Approvals—Mavenlink’s time and expense management functionality now includes an administrative approval workflow leading to timeliness, accuracy and error-free project accounting and reporting.
9) 5 Ways to Really Engage with Your Employees
The average American spends roughly 99,117 hours at work over the course of their lives. And research has shown nearly 70 percent of employees don’t like their jobs, leaving them emotionally unattached and willing to leave at a moments notice.
How do you change that attitude? Employco USA President, Rob Wilson says you need to engage with your employees. Here are his top 5 ways to really engage with employees and make an impactful connection.
- Value the Team: While the customer may always be right; your employees should come first. “Companies often miss this concept,” says Wilson. “Employees make sure your clients are happy and well-taken care of. If you are willing to take such good care of your clients, you should be treating your employees even better. They run your company.”
- Have Meaningful Missions: Your company’s mission is what drives your company, make it meaningful. “When hiring your next employees, you should be evaluating them on how much they believe in your mission,” says Wilson. “Hire employees who truly believe in the mission and product.”
- Create an Open Dialog with Employees at All Levels: Put away the survey and open your ears, emails and social media to friendly conversations. “Many employees feel intimidated talking to their bosses,” says Wilson. “Make sure the concept of an open door policy is understood at all levels of your company. You never know, you might hear the next million dollar idea from an entry level employee…make sure they feel welcomed and appreciated for their ideas.”
- Support Development: Give employees the ability to develop their careers. “No one wants to stay at a dead-end job,” says Wilson. “Starting a mentoring program that allows for employees to develop their career by providing them with the knowledge and resources they will need could allow for you to potentially hire within the company several times.”
- Make Work Welcoming: Sitting in an uncomfortable chair staring at wall or computer all day is mentally draining. “You want creativity and energy flowing out of your employees all day long,” says Wilson. “Comfort and visualization is important when running a successful company. Removing typical cubicles, investing in better chairs and brighten up the location can really boost employee moral.”
10) 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Franchising Your Company
Considering franchising your company? Dr. Jason Helfrich, the CEO and cofounder of 100% Inc., a chiropractic franchise company (100% Chiropractic) has some advice for you
- Not Having a Clear Core Concept: You cannot expect franchisees to have a clear understanding of the business if you the franchisor don’t. Know your business inside out and have every step of the business included in your system.
- Not Choosing Franchisees with Care: The relationship between the franchisor and franchisees is a long-term one with significant time and money invested. Know where the franchisees are getting their funding from as well as the repayment terms. Choose franchisees who are entrepreneurially-minded, but who can work within the confines of your system.
- Not Investing Seriously in Training: Solid training benefits both the franchisor and the franchisees. Training minimizes errors that save the franchisor from spending valuable time correcting them. Lastly, solid training increases profitability.
- Not Having Tight Controls: After providing assistance to the franchisees at the start with a proven marketing plan, control encompasses numerous aspects of the franchisee’s operations from accounting practices to promotional campaigns to being clear on hours of operation. The franchisor needs to keep a tight rein on every aspect its franchisees daily operations.
- Not Keeping Your System/Branding Consistent and Universal: Your franchisees should be duplicating your system as the franchisor. If you have spent significant time studying and documenting the systems that have made you successful, your franchisees should be following this solid system in their day-to-day operations. A franchisor needs to remember—you are selling a system for success.
11) DIY SKUs
Bindo, a retail technology company that develops innovative iPad Point-of-sale (POS) solutions for retailers and restaurants, just announced an integrated solution with Brother International to offer Bindo users more flexibility in inventory management by allowing them to create standardized Universal Product Codes (UPC) labels.
The integration will enable merchants to print any available sized barcodes directly from their iPad via the Brother QL-710W and QL-720NW label printers, and allow them to better track their inventories.
Leveraging this new, convenient feature from Bindo’s POS system, businesses and consumers will be able to stay organized, more easily track all of their SKUs and improve the POS experience.
12) Facebook Ad Design Made Easy
Vistaprint, an online provider of professional marketing products and services to micro business owners, just launched “Social Postcards,” an online tool that makes it easy for small businesses to turn their print materials into Facebook ads, target the right audience, and analyze campaign results. This omnichannel marketing tool enables small businesses to streamline and boost their print and online marketing efforts.
The “2014 Webs Small Business Digital Trends Survey” shows 63 percent of small business owners use digital products as part or all of their marketing strategies, most combine digital and print. This omnichannel platform integrates print and digital marketing in order to grow your business, increase sales and build brand awareness across multiple channels.
The survey also shows 65 percent of small businesses currently use or are willing to pay for Facebook ads. However, most don’t have the tools or resources to design impactful and professional-looking social media ads. Facebook research further shows that ads on the platform can drive more in-store revenue, with 33 percent more people purchasing the products or services, and 67 percent increasing their order value.
This new tool simplifies the task of creating and managing Facebook ads. Users who design a postcard on Vistaprint have the option to turn it into a Facebook ad, choose the target audience, publish it, and view the ad campaign’s results—all in one easy-to-use dashboard. The new Social Postcards tool features:
- Simple, user-friendly interface
- Step-by-step Facebook ad creation
- Proprietary technology that enables matching print and online branded content
- Library of ad templates to highlight sales, events, promotions and more
- Extensive library of royalty-free images for ad usage
- Adherence to Facebook’s text guidelines
- Simplified ad targeting based on demographics, interests, connections and more
- Compatibility with Facebook desktop and mobile
- Low one-time fee that enables testing with limited investment
- Ad analytics to help optimize strategy
12) Your Employees Know Nothing about Obamacare
As the business owner you might be very well aware of what The Affordable Care Act actually offers, but do your employees? According to a new survey just released by BambooHR, it’s likely your employees “have no clue what’s going on with their healthcare plans.” The survey shows 63 percent of employees don’t understand ACA “very well” or “at all” and more than 25 percent don’t know if their current plan is compliant?
Other key survey findings include:
- 77 percent don’t understand how the ACA will affect their tax filings
- 70 percent of view increased healthcare costs as a pay cut, but most don’t blame their employers
- 63 percent of respondents don’t know when they’re able to switch insurance plans
- 48 percent don’t know what the penalty is for not having insurance that meets ACA requirements
The survey also reports that health insurance is important to your employees—83 percent say healthcare benefits are “important” or “somewhat important” when selecting a job and 66 percent say those benefits influence how they feel about their jobs.
Check the infographic below for more information.
13) Can Texts Destroy Your Business?
Thanks to the continued consumerization of business, many employees prefer to use text messaging to communicate. Texting not only increases their productivity, but easily integrates with their personal lives. But texting may leave your company vulnerable—and you may need to tighten the reins on security and compliance issues, especially if you’re in a highly regulated industry.
And while your staff is busy texting, it is your responsibility to make sure all communication channels used in your business are safe and secure.
As Brad Brooks, the CEO of TigerText, which helps businesses manage text messaging, points out the daily mobile usage among consumers is up to nearly four hours per day on average. So how are consumers using their mobile devices for work?
Tiger Text just released the results of a survey which shows:
72 percent of consumers text for work purposes. Among this group, the majority of text messages sent are to colleagues, followed by customers, partners and vendors, and typically relate to general/day-to-day work activities.
- 72 percent use their own mobile devices for work purposes. (Demonstrating the further growth of BYOD in everyday work environments.)
- 57 percent text about work information, which is sometimes confidential, using unsecure channels. Alternatively, only 6 percent use messaging apps that are designed specifically for work.
There were some surprises in the survey. While 66 percent of employees don’t think texting is a security risk for their employers, 63 percent say security is a concern when choosing the tools they use to communicate. Brooks says, “Considering the disconnect between these two findings, it’s safe to say that employees misunderstand security as it relates to mobile messaging tools.”
Brooks says, “We were also surprised to find that 64 percent of respondents selected email as the most secure communications tool, since there have been so many high-profile security breaches to demonstrate otherwise. Take, for example, the recent Sony hack. With this in mind, it seems that companies need to better educate their employees on technology and corporate security.”
14) Top 5 Things VCs Want from Your Startup
Al Goldstein, the CEO and cofounder of AvantCredit shares the top things VCs are looking for when making funding decisions.
- CEO Track Record: Navigating the startup scene is a challenging task, so it’s important to have a CEO at the helm with a proven track record. Plain and simple—investors are more likely to fund a startup that showcases potential and that starts with the executive team.
- Team with Top Talent: The founding team of any startup should have strong expertise within their given industry. As a startup continues to grow, the specialized team is responsible for transforming the vision into reality. Implementing a strong management team across diverse functions of the business is imperative for allowing a startup to scale effectively.
- Market for the Product: The larger the market for a given product or service, the greater the potential of the startup. For example, U.S. consumer credit makes up a $12 trillion market, yet few consumers have access to responsible credit. The demand for credit, however, is there. This void in the lending industry coupled with demand for the product makes online lending companies (such as AvantCredit) an attractive prospect for investors.
- Winning Business Model: A winning business model will address an issue within the marketplace by providing a viable solution.
- A Competitive Edge: Investing in a startup is a numbers game and in order to effectively attract and close rounds of funding, a startup needs to separate itself from the rest of the pack by highlighting its competitive edge.
15) Embracing Diversity
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce launched the first initiative of its kind focused on LGBT business owners. The LGBT Business Builder will bring together expertise and resources from staff at SBA district and regional offices, NGLCC’s 38 U.S.-based affiliate chambers, and other resource partners. Businesses will learn how to leverage NGLCC’s LGBT-owned business certification and explore opportunities through SBA’s suite of services around government contracting, exporting, and other SBA initiatives.
The day-long training sessions will occur in the next 24 months for LGBT business owners in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco. Other cities will be announced in the near future.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva.