16 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
Note from Rieva: Check out posts #3-#10 for things you need to take care of right now.
1) Cybercrime Can Happen to You
You might think a cyberattack cannot happen to your small business, but that belief is, at best naïve, and at worst, it can destroy your business.
Check out the infographic below to see the true cost of poor cybersecurity.
2) 2015 Mobile Holiday Shopping Report
Moovweb just released its 2015 Mobile Holiday Shopping report—after tracking key e-commerce metrics during Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Some highlights from the report include:
Smartphone shopping soared
More customers shopped using their mobile phones than last year. The report shows a 45% increase in number of shopping sessions and a 16% increase in mobile conversions rates. In fact, smartphone’s share of revenue grew 36% compared to last year.
Black Friday revenue rose
Shoppers binged on mobile phones on BF, resulting in a more than 95% YOY mobile revenue increase. The increase is attributed to increased sessions and conversion rates.
BF sales surged past Thanksgiving
Shoppers relied on their smartphones to an even greater degree than last year for their Thanksgiving and BF shopping. Thanksgiving’s contribution to revenue compared to BF was 7%age points lower this year. For some industries such as clothing and accessories, Thanksgiving online sales grew compared to BF. But, overall, BF remained the bigger shopping day.
Haresh Kumar, VP of Marketing at Moovweb says, “The shift from desktop to mobile is completely apparent this holiday season and it will serve as a warning sign for other industries to go mobile. More retailers have embraced mobile in an effort to engage with their customers. And, we saw consumer behavior shift from mostly searching and browsing on mobile to making purchases on mobile at a much higher rate at all hours.”
Do it Now!
3) Start a Business During Your College Break
If you’re an industrious college student, small business insurance specialist Hiscox has identified four consulting businesses you can start over winter break—and keep running when you head back to school:
IT consulting: Information technology is one field in which having years of experience can actually work against you. If you’re still in college, your skills will be fresh and you’ll have lots of other people to bounce ideas off.
Graphic design: Graphic design consulting relies more on your creativity and talent than years of experience. Grab your portfolio of projects from your graphic design classes, make yourself some eye-catching business cards, or even better a website featuring all of your work, and get started.
Social media consulting: College students are often on the cutting edge of social media trends. One reason—you know how to drive engagement across social media platforms. Use this knowledge and experience to advise companies on their social media strategies.
Website design: You may have designed a web site for a campus group or club, for a fellow student, or just for your own blog. Use those sites as samples, and you can branch out to designing websites for companies.
4) Start Smart
You can attribute to Rev1 Ventures president and CEO Tom Walker
The rate of new entrepreneurs in the United States increased about 10% over last year—translating into about 530,000 new business owners each month, according to the 2015 Kauffman Index. As the New Year approaches, many more people may be thinking about taking the leap into entrepreneurship. That’s why Rev1 Ventures, the venture development organization that combines investment capital and strategic services, launched an innovative new tool to help entrepreneurs determine if it’s time to take the next step.
The Rev1 Ventures Startup Readiness Quiz is a simple 10-question multiple choice test to help aspiring business owners determine if they have the right foundation to start a company.
“New entrepreneurs may have a hard time determining if their idea could become a business. By evaluating an idea, the market and the resources needed to get started up front, entrepreneurs put themselves in a better position to start a business that the market wants and needs,” says Tom Walker, president and CEO of Rev1 Ventures.
To help new business owners, Rev1 has compiled a short list of top questions to help entrepreneurs determine if they should take the next step in 2016:
- Why do you want to start a business? Before taking the leap, it’s important to evaluate the reasons behind it. Starting a business requires a great deal of determination, passion and patience—it really is a labor of love, so it’s critical that you’re in it for the right reasons.
- Do you understand the key problem(s) your target customers face? Having a great idea is only half the battle—to be successful in the market, you must first understand if you’re solving a challenge that is not being addressed otherwise.
- What is your total addressable market for your product/service, and how will you reach customers? Solving a problem is important, but not if it’s only reaching a minute market. Take the time to understand how many customers your product applies to and how you will attract their attention.
- Who is your competition, and what is your differentiator? The way to cut through the clutter is to clearly differentiate from others. While you may feel you have a completely unique idea, chances are someone else sits in your space and could be a competitor for customers. Knowing who that is ahead of time will ensure that you understand the best way to stand out and provide a more valuable alternative to your customers.
- Do you understand the potential price of a single product or service versus the cost it will take to produce one? This big question is often overlooked in the beginning stages. To truly understand the potential of your business and its long-term growth, it’s essential that you understand the cost of running your business and developing/selling your product. This should be a first step, instead of an afterthought.
To get more perspective about your startup readiness, you can take the Rev1 Quiz here.
5) Small Business Optimization Tips
A guest post by H. John Oechsle, CEO of Swiftpage
The year is coming to a close, which means it’s time to start looking at the exciting opportunities 2016 will have to offer your small business. You’re probably thinking, “If only I had more time today!” but what you should really be doing is focusing on areas you can improve your business every day for the remainder of 2015. Your growth in the coming year will depend on the strategic decisions you make now, so make sure the choices you make give your business’ bottom line the best chance for growth. Here are a few areas to look at in order to optimize your small business’ potential for growth in 2016.
Data is proving to be the driver of technology and marketing strategies as 86% of marketers plan to integrate big data in their digital game plans. The question then becomes how are you organizing all the vital information that’s coming into your small business? Using sticky notes and mobile notepad applications are a start, but there is a much easier way to organize much more information. Take notice of the variety of tools, services, and solutions available that can be developed specifically to meet the custom needs of your small business. These tools can help you organize your finances and growth metrics, catalogue your customer interactions, prioritize your calendar and so much more at a minimal cost to you. Start organizing your data so you can optimize your small business and be ready to tackle any obstacle in 2016.
Social media presence is another key to unlocking success in 2016. Nearly 60% of marketers indicated that social media improved lead generation, which is great news for your small business since you will be able to dedicate even more time and attention to your social audience than your larger competitors. Ask yourself and your team how it is you communicate with your target audience through Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms? Have you appointed anyone to dedicate his or her energy to this task? Also, what is the strategy behind the content that is being created and posted? A great way to optimize social media efforts for a small business is to delegate the task to a single individual who will avoid redundancies, understand what content is valuable and in-line with your customer-facing strategy and branding efforts, and seal the cracks so content doesn’t fall through. A single tweet, Facebook post or Instagram photo focusing on the right topic and posted at the right time could very well be worth a dozen haphazard posts that don’t have a clear purpose. Your small business can’t afford to waste time on ineffective social media content, so make sure whoever is responsible for your social accounts is educated and empowered to positively impact the company’s success.
Focus on the Team
The final ingredient to optimizing your small business is to analyze how it runs. In order to enjoy a successful 2016, you need to invest in training, educating and guiding your employees. Your team is the life force of your small business, and it’s worth taking the time to make sure they have the tools they need to be efficient and effective in their roles. This training could come in the form of time spent walking employees through accounts and client relationships to make sure they know where things stand. Work through issues with them and make sure they are receiving clear direction. You can help them further by looking into the right software to help them manage new customer leads. Taking a moment to make sure your team is positioned for success will give you a chance to optimize everything from your own time, to the way the company interacts with customers, to the development of your product or service.
As a small business owner, you have an inherent advantage in team development because you can directly interface with your employees and teach them the way you want things done. Manage your growth in 2016 by dedicating yourself to your employees.
When you gear up to work on your goals for the New Year, make sure you’re ready to organize your data, strategize how you’ll handle your social media platforms and focus on strengthening your team. These three areas are key for optimizing small business success. Remember to benchmark your progress, too, so you can keep track of your improvement for years to come.
6) Health Care for Freelancers
Speaking of doing it now, if you’re a freelancer without a health plan, you have until tomorrow, December 15, to sign up (the deadline for open enrollment). Research from Intuit shows that 28% of freelance workers do not have a health plan—more than double the 12% of Americans who don’t have insurance. Intuit and Stride Health have teamed up to make it easier for self-employed workers to sign up for health insurance. Here are five open enrollment tips for freelancers:
- Re-Evaluate Your Specific Needs: As a freelancer you don’t have to accept a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach. Whether you are signing up for the first time, or switching plans, use the Open Enrollment period as an opportunity to evaluate your specific healthcare needs and find a plan to match.
- Save Money: In this case paying sooner actually saves you money! By signing up by December 15, your coverage will start January 1, 2016. This maximizes both your ability to pay for medical expenses using your health plan throughout the entire year, and the potential tax deductions you can have through paying premiums. Some health insurance premiums are deductible, and QuickBooks Self-Employed will help you to figure out which ones.
- Avoid Penalties: If you miss the Open Enrollment deadline, you miss out on the benefits of being covered and also open yourself up to tax penalties. IRS fines for not having coverage are $695 or 2.5% of your income, whichever is greater.
- Plan for Tax Time: Speaking of the IRS, tax time isn’t far off. Make sure you are taking full advantage of healthcare-related tax deductions and tax credits provided by the government. For example, consider opening a health savings account (HSA), a tax-advantaged bank account reserved for health-related expenses. The “net savings” to you is usually between 25 to 40%, depending on your tax bracket.
- Monitor your coverage all year around: Make sure you get the best return on your health insurance investment. Take advantage of year-round support from Stride Health to ensure you are maximizing the benefits of your health plan. For example, get help understanding what free benefits your plan offers (and which make the most sense for you to use), and be notified when your favorite doctor leaves your health plan’s network.
7) Top 5 Tips for Staying Inspired During the Holiday Season
Guest post by Nicole Lininger, Director of Corporate Communications, InventHelp
Great inventors typically don’t just have one or two terrific ideas—they are always thinking of new and better products. If inventing is in your blood, chances are new ideas occur to you during your daily life as well. But the holidays aren’t an ordinary time, and the change in routine can be a major distraction—or an inspiration. Here are some tips to help you make sure your holiday season is filled with new ideas:
- Look to holiday activities for inspiration. Some of the most useful inventions were discovered by people who looked at familiar old tasks in a brand-new way. The piecrust shield, multi-event kitchen timer, turkey deep fryer and digital thermometer are just a few inventions that were inspired by annual holiday feasts. As you take on seasonal tasks, keep in mind that if you think there has to be a better way to get something done, there probably is—and you should invent it!
- Maintain your curiosity and keep asking questions. Curiosity about how things work is essential to the process of invention, and the holiday season offers many new opportunities to observe processes and use products you don’t encounter the rest of the year. Tina Su of Think Simple Now advises readers to ask if there are other ways of taking on a task or achieving desired results. These are methods many inventors use to connect the dots between their interests and new ideas.
- Don’t get too comfortable. It’s a natural human impulse to seek comfort, especially around the holidays, but as Kim Kaupe, cofounder of ZinePak, says, “If you don’t feel uncomfortable a few times a week, you are doing something wrong.” A small amount of discomfort can lead to big new ideas, not only for inventions, but for positive life changes as well. Leave your comfort zone behind regularly to keep your mind sharp. That will ensure you are ready to take on new topics and maintain curiosity.
- Leverage the power of your group. The expression “great minds think alike” might be true in some cases, but for the purposes of invention, tapping into the power of minds that think differently can be incredibly illuminating. The holidays offer a perfect opportunity to discuss new ideas with the people you encounter frequently as well as friends, relatives and business contacts you may not interact with on a regular basis. Different perspectives can lead to breakthroughs.
- Focus on the small picture. Big thinking is closely associated with the process of invention, but sometimes it helps to take a step back and focus on the smaller things. The holiday season can be an excellent time to scale down your focus and use your time, budget and resources in a limited fashion to free your imagination and connect the dots between ideas.
Many people find the holiday season a welcome distraction from business as usual. That’s as it should be; the holidays are an ideal time to focus on friends and family. But the change in routine can actually work to the advantage of inventors, who use new situations to develop fresh concepts. Make innovation a habit that you practice all year long—even while enjoying all the holiday season has to offer—and you may find yourself with plenty of new ideas to explore in the coming year.
8) Bridging America’s Retirement Savings Gap
The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced the national launch of myRA, a simple, safe and affordable new savings option for those who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work. People can get information about myRA and sign up for an account at myRA.gov.
“myRA is designed to remove common barriers to saving, and give people an easy way to get started,” says U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “myRA has no fees, no risk of losing money and no minimum balance or contribution requirements. To make saving easier than ever, you can now put savings into myRA directly from your bank account.”
After a successful pilot phase of the program, myRA is now available nationwide. There are multiple ways for people to start saving:
- Set up automatic direct deposit contributions to myRA through an employer. (Your employees might be asking for this.)
- Checking or savings account. Savers can fund a myRA account directly by setting up recurring or one-time contributions from a checking or savings account.
- Federal tax refund. At tax time, direct all or a portion of a federal tax refund to my
According to a 2015 Federal Reserve Report, 31% of non-retired people have no retirement savings or pension. Additionally, a 2013 report by the National Institute on Retirement Savings found that the average near-retirement household had only $12,000 in retirement savings. Among workers who do not participate in a 401(k) or other defined contribution plan, 42% say it’s because their employer does not offer one. Furthermore, among part-time workers, a 2015 BLS Economic Release found that 62% don’t have access to a retirement plan at work.
myRA is designed as a starter retirement account to help bridge the savings gap for many of these workers. It is optimized to appeal to first-time savers, for whom a no-risk, principal-protected investment is more appealing than a higher-risk investment option. As myRA account holders grow their savings, they have the option to transfer to a private-sector Roth IRA with diverse investment options at any time, or transfer to a private-sector Roth IRA once they reach the maximum myRA balance of $15,000.
For more information or to sign up for an account, visit myRA. gov.
9) Small Business Predictions for 2016
A guest post by Will Reynolds, CEO of SecureDocs
New Sources of Funding: Back in the day you had few choices and most roads led to banks. Then came the rise of the private equity firms, the explosion of venture capital and more recently corporate venturing. All of these groups are inaccessible to the average individual, however, over the past few years there has been an increasing democratization of funding. Companies such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe provide crowdsourcing platforms that no longer require millionaire status to participate in. We see this trend increasing in 2016 with innovative platforms from organizations such as Seedrs in the UK and socially aware Chuffed, based in Australia. Greater innovation and more choice is great news for investors and for SMBs alike.
Security: Tools like Dropbox and Google Docs are becoming more commonplace for M&A, fundraising or sharing docs with investors, yet they are also leaving young businesses at risk. Investing in a more secure option of data sharing and a document repository will be an important line item for 2016 budgets. Virtual data rooms (VDRs) can offer a secure, easy-to-use solution for businesses. Unlike most file-sharing solutions, VDRs are designed to exchange critical and confidential files. In addition to certified data centers, off-site backup for disaster recovery and encryption, most VDRs also offer an extra layer of security features – including document encryption, viewing/printing restrictions and watermarking options just to name a few.
Falling Cost of Business: It’s taken less than 20 years for the Internet to revolutionize how business is conducted but one of the greatest benefits has been the increased accessibility to goods and services. Greater availability has led to a dramatic reduction in prices as providers find innovative ways to distribute their offerings. Starting a business has never been easier. Many technology companies are leveraging cloud platforms from Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and Rackspace and are able to deliver software and apps at the fraction of a cost compared to just a few years ago. It’s never been easier or less expensive to start a business, 2016 is a great year to go for it!
2016 Presidential Election Winner: Okay, we’re not going to call the race to the White House just yet, but it is possible to predict that SMBs will continue to be the apple of every candidate’s eye. On the flipside big business is under the microscope and reigning in corporate profits, particularly those that are hoarded abroad, looks like a winning campaign strategy. Everyone from Donald to Bernie agrees: Small is beautiful!
10) Fighting Disruptive Winter Weather
Guest post by Tom Stachowiak, senior vice president and CTO of Birch Communications
With fall quickly coming to an end, small businesses would do well to begin preparing for the threats they will face this winter, especially considering how disruptive and damaging the season was last year for companies of all kinds. When looking at the Northeast specifically, record precipitation and lingering bitter cold shaped what was widely considered to be one of the harshest seasons in history.
Extreme weather has seemed to become a bit more frequent in recent years. It would have been highly difficult to prepare for such adverse weather conditions in the past, especially before mobile technologies and modern infrastructure were available, but this can be a relatively straightforward process today.
Disaster recovery and business continuity solutions are readily available, and many come with the promise of improving the efficiency and productivity of companies on a daily basis—regardless of what happens with the weather. Cloud services and management software can go a long way toward boosting the resilience of a firm in the face of disruptive issues, and should be leveraged as soon as possible to avoid major setbacks in production or service delivery that can hurt reputations and the bottom line.
Entrepreneurs will need to cover the three main categories of operations, people, process and technology, to shore up their defenses and ensure the most prolific protection against outages, disruptions and financial loss. With the right strategies in place and plenty of managed services in use to back up the plans, the average small business will be better positioned to excel this winter and beyond.
Here are four steps you can take toward maintaining stronger continuity this winter, all of which should begin today:
- Unified communications: Most small businesses already have UC in place, notably video conferencing, VoIP and instant messaging tools, as well as the management solutions that bring them all together into a centralized framework. However, the jury is out with respect to information on the rate of entrepreneurs who have already modernized their UC frameworks to be accessible from any location at any time.
Cloud-based UC can be invaluable in times of disaster, as this will allow employees to remain in touch with one another and clientele even when travel is simply not an option, which will likely happen at least once this winter. Even southern states have seen harsher winters of late, meaning that virtually all companies need to begin leveraging advanced collaboration and UC tools.
- Telecommuting and remote work: Another common policy in place among most businesses today involves remote work and telecommuting, and these should be enhanced a bit to prepare for the advent of major blizzards and icy roads. It would not take long to see the vast differences in performance between companies that have these programs in place and those that do not when a significant weather event hits. Management software and monitoring tools will be necessary, enabling managers to seamlessly handle their teams regardless of which locations they might be working from during the winter.
- Contingency planning: The most damaging and dangerous disasters tend to be the ones that were the least expected. Additionally, as Einstein once mused, everything is relative. So, two feet of snow in Massachusetts would likely be similarly as disruptive as six inches in Georgia, which was seen clearly last year when the latter state was forced to close roads due to weather that many New Englanders would scoff at.
Get creative and think about every single potential adversity that might come to pass this winter, starting with the easiest ones to predict. Then, leverage technologies that add one or more layers of protection to each process and operational function, as this will help to defend against even the most rare weather events.
- Cloud, cloud, cloud: Despite mentioning this several times already, we cannot stress the importance of leveraging cloud services for disaster recovery and business continuity needs enough. The cloud provides flexibility, agility, resilience and more at all times, and might be the most powerful weapon any company has against disruptive winter weather. Cloud technologies can be used to back up data and networks, as well as mission-critical apps.
What’s more, when leveraging hosted cloud services, the chances of not being able to access mission-critical apps and systems will be inherently lower regardless of what wicked weather this way might come. Work with a managed service provider that can help with integration, optimization and long-term maintenance to ensure that disaster recovery, continuity and general everyday processes are supported every step of the way.
11) Emoji as Oxford’s “Word” of the Year? 4 Business Takeaways
Guest post by Fabiola Stein, Global Head of Marketing for Sage One
Last week, Oxford Dictionaries named their annual “Word of the Year.” While this announcement tends to create some noise on social media every year, this year’s word is even more buzzworthy because it’s not actually a word—it’s a pictograph. That’s right, an emoji—specifically, the “face with tears of joy emoji”. The reveal resulted in many very real tears of joy, laughter, and eventually confusion after folks realized it wasn’t a joke.
What does this mean for businesses that are constantly trying to stay up-to-date with new ways to communicate with their target audience? Should they throw out the dictionary and try to get their message across in a stream of emojis? Not exactly, but they can revisit the ways they are currently communicating with customers, and reassess how their messages come across. Below are four messaging takeaways businesses can glean from the new “word” of the year.
- Be relatable. In today’s competitive business landscape, consumers looking for a particular product or service have multiple options and access to product reviews that might sway their purchase decision. With so many choices out there, brands need to stand out and make an impact, and what better way to achieve flair than by being a brand customers can relate to and support.
Relating to customers and building loyalty can be as simple as speaking their language. Because, let’s be honest—no one enjoys feeling sold to, and the language you use when speaking to a friend is often different than how you might speak to a customer. Changing your messaging is a way to express how your brand values a customer’s relationship rather than their money. In some cases, that language can look like a GIF, meme, hashtag, or—you got it—even an emoji.
- Keep it simple. Research has shown us that the average number of brands or advertisements a person sees per day is over 5,000! That’s a lot—in fact, more than a lot. With so much brand clutter out there, businesses need to keep messaging simple, short, and to the point. This goes across the board of external messaging from marketing, sales and social, all the way to PR. The “tears of joy emoji” uses one image to display a whole range of emotions. It doesn’t get more to the point than that. Businesses who use too many words to get their message across struggle to make an impression. It’s not easy to convey every message with an emoji, but if it can be done in one word or image, go for it.
- Have a little fun! Life’s too short for boring, “corporate” customer transactions and stale engagement. Throw out the stiff, cold enewsletters and have a little fun with photos, videos, and fun phrases. If a business doesn’t have the resources to create authentic video or graphic content, the Internet is crawling with usable content. Which leads us to…
- Maintain professionalism. With the well-respected Oxford Dictionaries choosing an image for their “word” of the year, it can leave some businesses wondering how to walk the fine line between casual messaging and professionalism. Companies have been facing this issue for years as they assess how to position their social media pages. But while messaging may be getting less “sales-y” or “corporate” and more casual, it’s imperative for businesses to not lose sight of professionalism. They must ensure messaging is still on brand and in line with their products and services. Add a little flair, simplicity, and relatability into your message, but don’t get too caught up in being trendy and lose sight of your brand.
Adjusting messaging to make a lasting impression may mean a shift in brand guidelines and focus—and maybe a few tears of joy. However, through messaging that is relatable, simple, fun and professional, businesses can continue to drive ahead towards growth, success, and exceptional customer experiences. 😉
12) Creating Trustworthy Content
Marketers are still buzzing about the importance of content. According to Insights in Marketing, your content marketing goal should be “to create shareable content that your customers will pass on to their networks.” And consumers want it—in fact, 90% want brands to share content online. Check out the infographic below for more information.
13) Managing HR as a Small Business Owner
A guest post by Julien Emery, co-founder and CEO of Allay, an all-in-one solution for benefits, HR management, on- and off-boarding, compliance and reporting
Small business owners wear many hats, that’s just part of the job. And, while many would likely prefer to focus their energies on product development, business strategy and long-term financial goals, the reality is that human resource functions also fall under your domain. This means that small business owners must take on HR-focused responsibilities like payroll, benefits management, hiring, firing, employee development and ultimately creating an environment where people want to work.
So, with all the work that HR requires, does your company need to hire and invest in a designated HR person? Not necessarily. Here are some ways that you can still effectively manage HR on your own.
Tap a broker for benefits management: Employee’s value the benefits that you provide to them; however, understanding all the particulars with your company’s health insurance and other voluntary benefits can be a full-time job in itself. That’s why bringing in a trusted broker provides tremendous value. A broker can give your employees (and you) an extremely valuable human touch and can help optimize your benefits plans based on your needs / goals, communicate coverage options, and handle your employee’s questions about the confusing world of benefits.
Take the administrative work off your plate: Ongoing HR tasks like managing employee benefits, handling overall compliance and filling out government forms takes a lot of time. The good news is that many of these processes can be automated with technology so that you can stay focused on the growth and development of your business.
Let your employees take the reins: Any changes in your employee’s status such as getting married or moving requires them to update their personal information, which can mean a lot of back and forth paperwork. Eliminate this by giving your employees tools that allow them to access, input and update their personal information.
Keep open lines of communication: It’s important to stay connected and get ongoing feedback from your employees on a regular basis. To ensure this happens—schedule recurring team gatherings in an informal setting on the calendar, which allows you and your team to relax and to form relationships based on something other than work.
14) 5 Tips for Gen Y’s Managing Older Employees
Guest post by Nicole Laurrari, President, The EGC Group
It is a growing trend that a significant number of Gen Y managers are managing employees way older than them. As you can imagine, this can cause some issues, if not handled correctly. Here are some solutions:
Embrace the Age Difference: Gen Y’s may have the edge when it comes to being tech savvy and up on the latest business trends, but Boomers can bring the value of experience and perspective, through multiple market conditions. For instance, Boomers have experience in a non-digital world and have basic communication skills that Millennials may be lacking, while Millennials have the web on their side. By embracing each other’s differences and learning from each other, you can actually create the perfect work balance.
Focus on Results: It’s no secret that each generation approaches work differently. As managers, we sometimes focus too much on process, and become critical when someone tackles problem solving a different way than we would. It’s important that older employees are given a chance to deliver results and are put in charge of projects. Although their methods may be different, they can bring viable solutions to the table that other members of the team may not have thought of. Micro-managing these seasoned employees may slow down the process and halt creativity. Pair them with younger employees and watch the magic happen. They are likely to deliver significant results in a timely fashion.
Level the Playing Field: Respect each person’s contributions, from entry-level to management. Having members from different generations means more viewpoints and creativity—which gives your business an advantage—so use it. You can never over-communicate your position that everyone’s opinion and ideas count. And foster a cross-generation sentiment that no idea is a bad one and let the ideas flow. It’s important that you and your team respect and consider all ideas and together come to a successful conclusion.
Earn Their Respect and Embrace their Needs: When it comes to your more experienced team members, it’s important that they respect you and trust the decisions you make. They will respect you for doing your work and doing it well. Don’t set out to “prove yourself”—it’s unnecessary as you’ve earned your role. Keep in mind that you have to give respect to earn respect. Make sure that you remain approachable and open to your team’s ideas but ultimately you make the final decision. They don’t necessarily have to love you, but it’s important they respect the way you conduct business.
Assert Your Authority: As a younger boss, it may be difficult to confront older employees which stems from a traditional values system that stressed a unquestioning respect of your elders. But in the business world, you need to be the boss and address performance issues in staff—young or old. It’s important not to make special allowances for older employees because you feel uncomfortable confronting them. As a leader, it’s important to tackle issues head on in a respectful way.
15) Is the Glass Half Empty These Days?
According to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, after reaching a seven-year high in January, small business owners are feeling less optimistic than they were a year ago.
In the quarterly small business survey, which measures small business owner optimism, the overall Index score dipped from 59 in August to 54 in November, representing the lowest score since July 2014. It’s also the third quarter in a row that the score has dropped after starting the year at 71. A major contributor to this year’s decline is a drop in the number of business owners reporting increases in company revenue. This quarter’s score also was driven by a combination of incremental declines in business owner perceptions of their financial situation, capital spending, and hiring.
Company revenue is a measure that changed significantly since January—39% of small business owners reported their company revenues increased in the last 12 months, a 10-percentage point drop from the first-quarter survey. Looking ahead, 47% of business owners expect their revenues to increase in the next 12 months compared to 55% at the start of the year.
Most other Index measures had small declines or saw no improvements in the fourth-quarter survey including their financial situation, capital spending and hiring trends.
More business owners reported being comfortable with the amount of business debt they currently carry (40%), up from 29% in April 2013. Just 10% of business owners expressed difficulty paying down their current business debt, compared to 18% in April 2013 and 20% in April 2012.
When asked to identify the most important challenge they face, business owners cited several concerns. Business owners said their biggest concern was government regulations (13%), the highest percentage since the question was first asked in the second quarter of 2013, followed by attracting customers and finding new business (11%) and hiring and retaining quality staff (10%).
16) The Growing Latino Market
The Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI) recently released a study showing the impact of Latino Entrepreneurship on the U.S. economy. According to the report:
- The sales impact of Latino entrepreneurs exceeds $517 billion and they employ more than 2.5 million people.
- SLEI projects a gap of $1.2 trillion in sales between where Latino-owned businesses are today and where they could be, named the Opportunity Gap.
- SLEI projects a total of 10+ million Latino-owned businesses by 2060.
- Latino-owned businesses are more likely to be family-owned vs. non-Latino businesses. More than 90% of Latino businesses are held under family ownership.
- Latino-owned businesses have a diverse customer base, and contrary to perception, only a small percentage service mostly Latino customers. The broader market is eagerly embracing Latino-owned business goods and services.