9 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know


By Rieva Lesonsky


1—Post-Holiday Retail Sales

2017 holiday retail sales topped $679 billion, an increase of nearly 5% over 2016. But, what happens to retailers and this merchandise post-holidays? Take a look at the infographic below from SumoHeavy, which offers trends and tips on how retailers can better prepare for the influx.


2—How to Make a Good First Impression

As the old saying goes, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Generally, people form their initial impression in the first 30 seconds of meeting you, and according to the infographic below from On Stride Financial, they size up your trustworthiness and intelligence in less than a minute.

Check out the 10 tips below to master the art of first impressions.


3—How Will New Scheduling Laws Affect Your Business

If you’ve ever worked a shift schedule—you know it can be tough—with all the last-minute changes, back-to-back shifts, and unpredictable schedules. It takes a toll on both employees and employers.

Last fall, a survey commissioned by TSheets showed shift workers lose an average $1,100 each year on shifts canceled at the last minute, and employers lose an average $7,500 annually on no-call, no-shows alone.

New laws mandate predictive scheduling

In an effort to address the issue, several states, including Oregon, New York, California, and even some provinces in Canada, are adopting new laws that require employers to provide the employee shift schedule two weeks in advance.

These predictive scheduling laws will allow employees to better balance their work and their personal time, and prepare for upcoming shifts. But nearly half of employers admit they won’t be able to hold up their end of the bargain, which could land them in hot water when it comes to complying with city and statewide labor laws.

The top 5 challenges facing business owners who employ shift workers

  1. Retaining good employees
  2. Finding employees to cover missed shifts
  3. Hiring good employees
  4. Managing labor costs
  5. Planning weekly shift schedules

The top 5 challenges facing employees who work in shifts

  1. Pursuing hobbies
  2. Seeing friends
  3. Exercising
  4. Eating well
  5. Sleeping well

So how do you solve these issues? TSheets has created an in-depth report (yet it only takes 10 minutes to read) to help you solve these shift scheduling challenges.


4—Customer Service via Social Media

Can you really provide customer service using social media? The folks at Website Builder say yes. In fact, they believe “Social media has not only emerged as a platform for marketing and advertising, but it is also a great place to build a caring community that would get social and engage with your customers, which is a must for boosting your brand’s image.”

Check out the infographic below for the specifics.


5—Franchising Trends for 2018

Buying a franchise is a great option for becoming a small business owner. But it’s a serious investment of you time—and money. Before you buy one, you need to know what the franchise trends are for 2018. And who better to tell you than my friend Joel Libava, otherwise known as the Franchise King. Check out the latest franchise trends and Joel’s predictions here.


6—Small Business Owners are Optimistic

Rocket Lawyer’s Small Business Index, a yearly report gauging the overall sentiment and economic outlook of small business owners, shows that business owners are optimistic: 80% reported growth in 2017, and 63% believe their sales will increase this year.

Finishing fiscally strong in 2017 is encouraging SMBs to reinvest in their businesses. They plan to hire (23% have plans to hire in the next six months), adding sales (34%), administrative (24%) and marketing (17%) positions. Almost half (48%) plan to hire full-time employees, followed by part-time (38%) and independent contractors (30%).

“Small businesses continue to propel economic growth and fuel overall optimism,” says Charley Moore, founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer. “With the unemployment rate low, finding and retaining workers is top of mind and so will be attention to employment law issues like fair labor practices. Additionally, the recently passed tax plan is causing many small businesses to re-evaluate their business structure. So, we expect to see a growing number of self-employed individuals and small businesses seek professional tax consultations and consider incorporating for the first time, to take advantage of potential tax savings and limited liability protection.”

SMB sentiment on Trump’s first year

The Index found mixed sentiment regarding the new administration’s ability to enact helpful policies, with 53% of respondents feeling slightly to more pessimistic than last year. With respect to their businesses, SMBs are most concerned with healthcare policy and tax policy, followed by infrastructure, immigration and trade. Interestingly, while immigration continues to be a hot-button issue for the nation, 51% of small businesses don’t believe that a change in policy will affect their businesses. However, 33% say immigration policy has seen a significant deterioration since the Trump administration took over. With regard to the newly passed tax plan, SMBs are not convinced it will benefit their businesses, as 48% are pessimistic and 31% have a “wait-and-see” attitude.

Legal guidance reigns supreme: importance of staying legally compliant

This past year, small businesses saw a flurry of changes (or proposed/pending changes) in our laws, such as immigration and tax reform, rollback of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and tax reform, all of which will directly or indirectly impact small business owners. The top two areas of concern for small businesses were taxes and healthcare, according to the Index—19% of SMBs are concerned about not understanding, or being able to comply with, changing government regulations.


7—4 Emerging Startup Industries for 2018

What will be hot in 2018? 99designs identified four themes after analyzing design contests and projects launched on the site at the end of 2017 as compared to those launched four and two years ago. Here are their picks:

  1. Cryptocurrency Companies.Bitcoin has been all over the news, attracting a lot of attention to the cryptocurrency industry in general. Projects with the term “cryptocurrency” or “bitcoin” showed a whopping 458% increase since 2015 (and a 821% increase over 4 years ago). 
  2. Cannabis Companies. Whether for recreational or medical use, marijuana is now legal in more than half of U.S. states, leading to an industry that more or less “sprouted” overnight.Projects with terms “cannabis” or “marijuana” in the title increased 59% in the past 2 years—and over 1000% since 2013.
  3. Virtual Reality Startups. In 2018, VR becomes more “reality” than “virtual,” with many new startups entering the game. Projects with the terms “augmented reality” or “virtual reality” were up by 37% over 2015—and up by 510% since 2013.
  4. “Wanderlust” or Experience-Travel Businesses. Boutique hotels, voluntourism, RVs, Airbnb rentals—staying at a hotel is soooo Projects with the terms “boutique hotel,” “Airbnb,” “van rental” and “camper van” increased by 27% in the past two years and are up 211% since 2013.

In addition, 99designs took a deeper dive into branding and logo trends within each of the four sectors and provides practical design advice for entrepreneurs launching ventures in these areas in a blog post on their site.


8—Strong Password Management Strategy Still Critical

Keeper Security, Inc., a leading password manager and secure digital vault, recently released the results of a about password behaviors. Two important distinctions emerged from the results: people still have terrible password hygiene but think the use of biometrics, such as fingerprint and facial recognition, for identity access to their devices will remedy their bad habits.

Recent market intelligence reports predict that by 2020, 100% of smartphones, wearables and tablets will have biometric capabilities. This is apparently good news to 66% of the survey respondents who think biometrics are strong authentication and accountability tools that are convenient and hard to fake.

“We were alarmed to find that consumers think the use of fingerprint and facial recognition to gain access to their devices or logins makes them safer. This is not always the case, especially when biometrics are used as the only method to authenticate a user. Biometrics as a second factor for authentication are best because as a single factor, there is major risk. If the biometric is stolen, it can never be changed. Biometrics are simply a convenience method that call upon a password to authenticate the user,” says Darren Guccione, CEO and Co-founder of Keeper Security. “While this action is convenient, if the underlying password is weak, for example, 123456, the account can be easily compromised.”

The survey found people’s password habits aren’t getting better. Despite having to log into multiple systems, websites and other digital resources daily, 48% of respondents choose to store their passwords ‘in their heads.’ The second most common place to store them is ‘on paper.’ Astoundingly, a third of respondents still commit the password no-no of using the same password for multiple logins. In fact, millennials are the worst offenders, with 36.5% of them reusing the same passwords for different logins.

A surprising 38.9% of respondents think fingerprint and facial recognition tools are more secure than passwords. Other recent surveys and studies on biometrics show that a majority of consumers see these biometric techniques as effective for securing online payments and as a means of eliminating password use and the annoyance created when passwords are forgotten.

Keeper Security says, “It is clear that biometrics is surely convenient and growing in popularity, but it’s important for the public to understand the difference between security and convenience. Biometrics cannot provide security on their own merit, and a strong password management strategy is critical in preventing cyberattacks and data theft.”


9—The Global Gig Economy

Payoneer, a global provider of payment-processing technologies, spoke to over 21,000 freelancers from 170 countries to determine how they operate and what rates they charge.

Some of the more interesting findings:

  • The worldwide average hourly rate charged by freelancers is $19, well above the average hourly salary in most of the countries where the freelancers are based.
  • The freelance scene is young—over 50% of the respondents are under the age of 30. At the same time, older freelancers earn more than their younger counterparts.
  • Over 80% of the professionals surveyed focus on 1 to 3 jobs at a time.
  • Almost half of the freelancers have an average work week of 30-50 hours.
  • Freelancers providing legal services charge more than any other service ($28 per hour) but work the fewest hours per week.
  • Freelancers who work in IT & programming have the highest levels of job satisfaction.

Check out the full report here.


9—5 Significant Employment Trends for 2018

As 2018 begins, Allison & Taylor, the reference checking company, has identified five employment trends that will have significant implications for all employees.

  1. Working at home is on the decline as workplace well-being is prioritized. In 2017, Allison & Taylornoted that about one-third of global corporations offered workplace flexibility options such as working from home and the elimination of strict office hours.
    However, this trend has now taken a downturn as many companies have discovered when employees interact more with each other in physical environments, it can result in enhanced creativity and relationship building that lead to favorable outcomes.
    Companies like Apple—which just completed a state-of-the-art world headquarters—have also concluded that while technology can make its employees more efficient, it will never replace face-to-face conversations.
    In addition to physical interaction, mental health, often downplayed in the workplace, is becoming more of a focus for corporate leaders. In many global corporations, HR providing more support for employees with mental health issues.
  2. As the economy continues to improve, employers will invest greater sums into the training and development of their employees. More training and development will be utilized to fill the gaps in employee skill sets and will help companies work to full capacity in an improving economy. This will be most essential for Generation Z employees, who are demonstrating a soft skills gap in the workplace.
  3. An increasingly aging workforce will have ramifications for employees of all ages. While much is made of Gen Y and Z employees, the overall workforce is continuing to age, with baby boomers retiring later than their generational predecessors. About three in every four Americans plan to work past retirement age, with almost two-thirds projected to work part-time.
    The population of seniors in the U.S. is expected to more than double from 41 to 86 million between now and 2050. As baby boomers maintain their leadership positions, it will be more challenging for younger workers to achieve promotional opportunities and could lead to higher turnover levels.
  4. Bullies continue to affect the workplace. A significant change in the reference checkingprocess is that employers are more likely than ever to call the job seeker’s former supervisors rather than the traditional route of calling Human Resources. This is because former supervisors tend to be far more talkative about previous employees than HR—and a talkative, knowledgeable reference is exactly what they seek.
    A 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute identified 27% of respondents as having current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work, and bosses constituted the majority of bullies.

Workplace bullies can affect not only current, but also future employment opportunities. Workers are encouraged to take a proactive stance, utilizing reference checks and cease and desist services to be sure that references are adhere to company policy and are not jeopardizing a candidate’s chances at future employment.

  1. Technological/AI advancements will continue to influence the workplace. Trends that began in 2017 will accelerate in 2018, affecting employment opportunities across the board. Examples include fast food chains adding ordering kiosks and warehouses using automated order pickers.  Chatbots—programs that facilitate text conversations—are expected to save companies millions of dollars in salary expenditures annually, as will similar forms of artificial intelligence.