7 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—National Mom & Pop Business Owners Day
Today, March 29th, is National Mom & Pop Business Owners Day. To commemorate the day, Constant Contact is recognizing family-owned businesses and some of the misconceptions that surround them. Check out the infographic below to find out about five of the most common myths related to family-owned businesses.
2—Small Business Optimism Surges
Small business owners are the most optimistic they have been since the start of the Great Recession, according to the latest findings from the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index.
The quarterly small business survey shows the overall Index score increased to 100 in February, up from 80 in November and up 33 points from a year ago. The primary factor in the jump in optimism was in how business owners rate their current business conditions.
Other key drivers this quarter included:
- Better financial situation: 71% say their current financial situation is very or somewhat good
- Increasing revenues: 45% say their business’s revenue increased over the past year
- Stronger cash flow: 64% say their cash flow was very or somewhat good over the past year
- Access to credit: 40% say credit was somewhat or easy to obtain over the year
Small Business Challenges
The small business owners identified the most important challenges facing their business as:
- Government regulations—14%
- Attracting customers and finding new business—12%
- Hiring and retaining quality staff, the economy and financial stability/cash flow—8%
There’s more about retirement plans, succession strategies and retirement plans in the infographic below.
3—Culture Is a Four-Letter Word
Guest post by Steven L. Blue, President & CEO of Miller Ingenuity, an innovative company revolutionizing traditional safety solutions for railway workers, and author of the new book, American Manufacturing 2.0: What Went Wrong and How to Make It Right. You can connect with Blue on Twitter, @SteveBlueCEO.
When I started to write this article I originally titled it “Culture Is Not a Four-Letter Word.” It was intended to address the CEOs who think culture is a squishy, beer for lunch, feel good concept that doesn’t deserve a place at the grown-ups table. I wanted to demonstrate how wrong-thinking that can be and make the case for the power of culture and why it should be at the top of every CEO’s list.
I was prepared to make a compelling case to convince CEOs that culture is every bit as important as strategic planning. I was ready to cite all kinds of studies and dazzling statistics that prove that positive cultures create positive financial performance.
But now I know I don’t have to thanks to a four-letter word: Uber. Uber’s toxic culture is front and center lately in the news.
According to recent reports, Uber has engaged in everything from sexual harassment to stealing driverless technology from Google. Even some of its own investors claim the company fosters a toxic culture.
There is that four-letter word again. You know, the beer for lunch, don’t bother with culture mind-set. Culture can be a four-letter word if it is ignored. Culture can be a four-letter word if is toxic. And toxic cultures kill more businesses than recessions. And it is liable to kill Uber too.
So, what went wrong with Uber? How can a company that claims its values are “making communities safer” and “standing up for its driver community” go so horribly wrong? Because those are what I call “bumper sticker” values. Values that look good in an annual report but have no real meaning inside the company. There is often a difference between bumper sticker slogans and the real values that lie beneath. Value statements are always warm and fuzzy. But a company’s real values are manifested by how they act, not how they claim they act. And at the end of the day, the culture is nothing more than a collection of values. And values dictate how employees will behave.
If you’re a CEO, don’t wait until an Uber-like disaster strikes before you do a values check-up. But don’t have the human resources people ask employees what the company values are. Don’t declare what you think the values are and expect people to behave accordingly. That never works. Here is what you should and shouldn’t do:
- Do not make this an exercise for the human resources department. If it is to be taken seriously, it has to come right from the top. People need to know that values matter.
- Have an outside professional survey company conduct an anonymous survey and ask every single employee in complete confidence what they think the company values are. You may be astounded by the results.
- If the underlying values are not the same as the bumper sticker, find out why. What is driving the difference? Chances are you’ll find operating managers are the root cause. Or you might be the root cause. As an example, many operating managers don’t give a hoot about anything other than results. Of course, results matter. No company can prosper without positive results. But results without appropriate values are often temporary, or only illusory.
- Reality check time. Does your company have the “right” values? By that I mean values that serve your employees, customers, community, and shareholders equally. Values that form what I call a “culture by design, not default”. If not, it’s time to change them.
- Let’s assume you have the “right” values (you may, but I doubt it). Start at the top and go layer by layer. Those that don’t believe in, won’t abide by, or demonstrate the values have to go. This sounds simple, but it is not easy. But it is essential. If your top managers ignore the values everyone else will. This is a multi-year process that you must undertake carefully and delicately, otherwise the business will crash and burn. Take it one step at a time, one manager at a time. Once you start replacing managers for values reasons, the whole organization will begin to behave differently. People will applaud you for doing so.
- Don’t let anybody in the front door that doesn’t fit in with your values. Interview potential new employees with values in mind. Don’t just state the values and ask if they agree. Of course they will agree, they want the job. Ask them what their values are. Ask them what values they would admire in a company. If their values don’t match with company values, don’t hire them. No matter how good they are. Otherwise, they will be like an infectious disease on the organization.
Bottom line, make values a key part of performance evaluation. Don’t make this a check off the box exercise. Make values the standard for promotions and compensation increases. And make values a key determinate in terminations. By instilling the right set of values, you’ll save your company from becoming a four-letter word too.
4—Small Businesses More Optimistic Despite Climate of Change
Small business owners are more optimistic about 2017, according to a new report from cloud accounting tech company Xero. The second annual Make or Break Report, which examines the opinions and character traits of both small business owners and accountants in the U.S. and UK, shows both owners (79%) and accountants (84%) feel more confident about 2017 than 2016.
Confidence is high, especially among very young businesses, despite their concerns about economic uncertainty being the most pressing for U.S. and UK business owners. Most owners of one-year-old (94%) and two-year-old businesses (84%) said they feel more confident going into 2017 than the previous year, and 79% of small business owners are confident about their business’ survival in 2017.
For those going through a tougher time, nearly a fifth expect 2017 to be a turnaround year for their business. So why is it that small businesses are feeling so confident?
U.S. small business owners are not overly concerned about regulatory changes
- 78% of U.S. small business owners remain confident about the future despite the unknown factors of having a new President in office.
- Economic instability is still their #1 concern.
- 39% believe the Affordable Care Act will impact their business in the coming year.
- 29% don’t believe regulatory changes, from wage compliance and immigration reform to retirement and employment regulations, will impact their business.
- However, among U.S. accountants who work with small businesses: 60% believe the ACA will impact their clients this year. Only 2% of accountants say their clients will not be impacted by regulatory changes.
Small business owners are shunning traditional office structures to increase productivity
- Successful small business owners are shifting from working during fixed business hours to remote working arrangements and more flexible working hours–hailing this as the biggest driver of productivity for themselves and their staffs in 2016.
- 94% of small business owners using cloud software report benefits, citing paperless systems, remote working and simplified software management.
Small business owners are prioritizing health and happiness
- 78% of U.S. and UK business owners believe their personal health as well as the health of their staffs will directly impact the success of their business.
- 63% say getting enough sleep is the most important factor for maintaining a healthy body and mind.
- Exercising regularly, support from friends and family and adequate time off was also highlighted by small business owners. In the last year, 84% found ways to take holiday breaks and avoid commuting headaches by working from home on occasion.
- 52% want a better work-life balance in 2017 than they had in 2016.
Small business owners see themselves as being in control of their own destiny
- 54% have taken financial risks with their businesses; however, 77% of small business owners said they had no regrets–even when the results are not what they hoped for–they see mistakes as a fundamental learning experience.
Small business owners are firmly grounded
- 51% of U.S. and UK small business owners in the consider their accountants to be a trusted business advisor or mentor, but only 21% of those respondents say they always take their advice.
- 49% of the U.S. small business owners believe the current administration’s proposed changes to corporate tax policy will not impact their businesses, while 38% believe their businesses will be impacted. Meanwhile, 79% of accountants believe the proposed changes to corporate tax policy will impact small business.
- Chasing payments is still the biggest time waster for one-fifth of U.S. and UK small business owners. The threat is compounded by the importance small businesses put on cash flow in 2017—for 34%, cash flow is more important than ever.
To ensure business owners understand tax policy changes, 79% discuss potential changes with their clients before they become law.
5—Need New Furniture?
OFM, one of the nation’s leading office and school furniture manufacturers and distributors, recently announced it has officially launched its new Essentials by OFM line, expanding its everyday furniture offerings with over 100 new desks, chairs, and tables.
OFM already has 50 new models in stock including leather seating, mesh seating, folding tables and chair mats, and is expanding this list by the end of June into over 100 new items. The company just released a “racing style” leather gaming chair and a leather heated “Shiatsu” massage chair.
6—Hotspots in Government Contracting
Onvia, a leading commerce intelligence in business-to-government (B2G), recently released its 3rd annual edition of 10 Hotspots in Government Contracting. The research ranks the fastest areas of growth in government contracting. The report uses current, future and historical government transaction data from Onvia’s B2G Intelligence System (B2GIS) to uncover opportunities showing the most significant rates of growth in published solicitations.
Key Drivers: Efficiency, Safety, Functionality and Compliance Stimulate Demand
Within the dynamic $2 trillion B2G marketplace, spending from state, local and education (SLED) agencies reaches around $1.5 trillion annually—offering opportunity for vendors in a diverse range of industries to grow their public sector sales. As Onvia’s research reveals, the fastest growing Hotspots in government contracting for 2017 include:
- Growing school bus services
- Providing clean water
- Serving those with disabilities
- Preparing sites for construction
- Strengthening disaster services
- Upgrading to smart lighting
- Enabling government with IT
- Expanding connectivity
- Innovating education
- Improving medical equipment
These purchasing areas are representative of the diverse sectors in which government agencies choose to invest their money. Purchasing decisions driving growth in each of this year’s segments were found to be influenced by the following common themes:
- Efficiency:Government decision-makers are focused on saving money and improving processes
- Safety:Public safety concerns are a key driver of demand
- Functionality:Taxpayers and buyers are looking for more features and functionality
- Compliance:Rules and standards are driving contracts and affecting what is purchased
- Opportunity:Small to mid-size businesses, as well as large enterprise vendors all have a significant opportunity in government.
The 10 Fastest Areas of Growth in U.S. Government Contracting
#1 Improving Medical Equipment +21% GROWTH: High healthcare costs and an aging boomer population combine to grow demand for better equipment to support efficient operations and promote prevention. The medical equipment industry is currently worth $484 billion worldwide, and will reach $635 billion by 2021.
#2 Innovating Growth + 20% GROWTH: Focus in K-12 improvement and evolving teaching methods continues to drive demand for effective solutions to help teachers and train students.
#3 Expanding Connectivity +20% GROWTH: Agencies realize they can’t provide the benefits of modern digital government without the telecom/connectivity infrastructure to support it.
#4 Enabling Government with IT +17% GROWTH: High value “enabling” IT involves cross-disciplinary custom solutions from trusted vendor-partners to solve problems, generate ROI from efficiency and improve outcomes.
#5 Upgrading to Smart Lighting +15% GROWTH: Lighting has emerged as a promising area of modern technology, which can lower costs and perform other functions.
#6 Strengthening Disaster Services +14% GROWTH: With an upswing in national disasters and increased threats of man-made ones, local and regional vendors are needed to offer appropriate tools and services.
#7 Preparing Sites for Construction +14% GROWTH: Infrastructure is on the rise in 2017 and one of the leading indicators is the number of site preparation contracts.
#8 Serving those with Disabilities +13% GROWTH: Recent changes in ADA guidelines and standards open up further opportunities for qualified construction, design and consulting firms.
#9 Providing Clean Water +12% GROWTH: Fixing and improving our nation’s aging public water and waste systems is one of the areas of infrastructure targeted for additional funding as part of Trump’s proposed $1 trillion 10-year initiative.
#10 Growing School Bus Services +10% GROWTH: While privatized educational services have their share of critics, school funding difficulties will continue and these is a more business-friendly administration at the federal level—with growth in private. bus services.
Vendors, buyers and the media can get the details behind these hot and emerging B2G categories by requesting a complimentary copy of the report here.
7—New Real Estate App
Real estate technology company, HomeASAP, a leading provider of online marketing solutions for real estate agents, recently rolled out several innovative, new marketing and lead-gen solutions for agents. The latest was the release of its new HomeASAP Agent App™ designed to connect READ members with homebuyers, sellers, and referrals.
The all-encompassing app, which integrates with HomeASAP’s state-of-the-art IDX Home Search™ lead-capture websites for Facebook and the groundbreaking Search Alliance™ national lead-gen co-op network for agents and brokers, lets users manage their Leads, READ™ and Search Alliance™ accounts and services from a single source.
Making Lead-Generation Simpler and More Cost-Effective
“What we’re doing is creating a complete traffic and lead-generating ecosystem for agents,” says John Marshall, COO / CFO for HomeASAP.
The HomeASAP Agent App™ is currently available for iOS 9.0 or later (compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch), with Android coming soon. It can be downloaded for free in the Apple store. Membership in the Real Estate Agent Directory™ (READ) on Facebook is required to use the app and agents can sign up within the (READ) app when they first use it. There is no cost to join the Directory.