16 Things Small Business Owners Should Know

By Rieva Lesonsky


1—Small Business and Benefits Plans

More than 60% of small businesses offering a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) are planning on increasing their employee benefits in 2020, a new survey from PeopleKeep reveals.

You can learn more in this blog post and in the infographic below.


2—Taming the “Technology Beast”

Last week Zoho launched the next generation of Zoho One. If you’re not familiar with Zoho One, it is an operating system for small businesses that can help you run your entire company, including your sales and marketing, finance, HR, operations, business intelligence operations and more—all on a unified technology platform.

When originally launched Zoho One offered a suite of 35 different applications. Today (only two years later) the Zoho One Suite boasts more then 45 apps—and the platform is customizable, extendable, and integratable.

This makes is so much simpler for small business owners to get the most out of technology. As Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s Chief Evangelist says, “Technology is supposed to help businesses. Instead, it has evolved into a complex beast customers have to tame—from juggling apps from multiple vendors to trying to solve the multi-app integration puzzle to dealing with vendors forcing customers into expensive, lengthy contracts. The technology industry has gone too far down this path and this has to change. With Zoho One, we want to change all that. With Zoho One, you are not just licensing technology. You are licensing peace of mind.”

Zoho One’s New & Improved Services

Communications: Zoho’s telephony platform, PhoneBridge, integrates over 50 telephony vendors and several Zoho applications, including Zoho CRM, Zoho Recruit, Zoho Mail, and 20+ other apps. Using PhoneBridge enables you to make calls from Zoho apps and provides contextual information on incoming calls.

Single Sign-On: Single Sign-On service allows you to integrate any third-party applications onto your Zoho account. And it supports about 50 third-party applications. Plus, Zoho One admins can now enforce YubiKey authentication as an added factor for increased security, on top of existing multi-factor authentications already supported.

App Management and Provisioning: This ties everything together. Currently users get provisioning for all 45+ Zoho apps. Now, this is being extended to custom apps created through Zoho Creator as well as external apps available through Zoho Marketplace.

Zoho, third-party, custom, and SSO apps can be provisioned either individually to users or as groups conditionally provisioned with custom criteria.

Business Workflow Management—Orchestly: Zoho One has added a new business workflow management application, Orchestly, that lets you create, manage, and optimize your business processes through an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. This enables managers with no coding skills to define processes with little effort.

Using Orchestly you and your managers can automate and run your regular workflows, including across departments, such as purchase approvals, content publishing, asset management, and onboarding.

Zoho Sign: The enhanced Zoho Sign now offers an additional level of verification for customers by adopting blockchain-based timestamping through Ethereum, the globally accepted, open-source platform.

Support: Small business owners need tech support. Users get free Concierge service with Zoho One, which offers the ability to consult with the Zoho team to better understand how it can help your business.

If you’re new to Zoho One, they’ve just launched Jumpstart for Zoho One, helping you through the initial implementation. All Zoho One customers  receive support, out-of-the-box, but now enterprise customers can request premium support.

Pricing: Cost for Zoho One is $30 per employee if your entire company signs on or $75 per individual user. That cost includes all 45+ apps.


3—Technology is Crucial for Nonprofits

Did you know most nonprofits are just like your businesses—they have less than 10 employees. Now they can get the same type of tech help for profit businesses receive thanks to Microsoft Tech for Social Impact (TSI). The TSI team just announced a series of solutions to help nonprofits digitally transform by arming them with access to best-in-class, nonprofit specific technology and the ability to effectively utilize them.

Small nonprofits can now harness key Microsoft solutions such as Office 365, Microsoft 365 and Power Platform, in an efficient and cost-effective way.

New solutions include:  

  • Microsoft 365 Business for Nonprofits: Microsoft 365 Business is an integrated solution that brings together the best-in-class productivity of Office 365 with advanced security and device management capabilities to help nonprofits securely run and grow their organizations. Available now, nonprofits can obtain Microsoft 365 Business with up to 10 seats donated, and then pay just $5 per additional user per month.
  • Microsoft’s Digital Skills Center for Nonprofits: Also available now, the Microsoft’s Digital Skills Center for Nonprofits, in partnership with Tech Soup, is a one-stop learning path platform full of product training and skill-building content to help nonprofits successfully use technologyNew content and courses will be added regularly.
  • Microsoft Nonprofit Operations Toolkit: Available October 1, exclusively through Microsoft’s cloud solution partners, the Nonprofit Operations Toolkit will help small nonprofits implement effective project and awards management processes that reduce costs and build trust with funders. It is an out-of-the box solution using Power Platform and consists of purpose-built PowerApps, Flow, cloud storage, and Excel.

Check out this blog for more about tools for nonprofits.


4—Online Advertising Provides Big Savings and Drives Significant Revenue Growth

Online advertising has become a critical tool for entrepreneurs and startups to grow and launch their businesses, and they are saving significant time and resources through their digital efforts, according to a newly released report from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) based on the findings of a recent TechnoMetrica survey of small businesses. The new report, The Digital Boost to Startups and Small Business: Online Advertising Delivers BIG Benefits, found that entrepreneurs and small business owners are saving significant time and money by using online advertising (nearly $163 billion annually), which has created more efficiencies and effective uses for the limited capital they have on hand. Digital advertising is driving solid sales growth and expansion opportunities for these small businesses.
SBE Council president & CEO Karen Kerrigan and chief economist Raymond Keating co-authored the new report. Kerrigan says, “Each new wave of innovation spawns new tools and strategies for entrepreneurs and small businesses to operate more effectively and thrive. With 89% of small business owners expressing confidence that their online advertising dollars will yield positive results for their business, it’s no wonder that they have quickly adopted digital marketing to support their business growth. In fact, it has become vital to their competitiveness and survival.”
Affordability Critical to Growth and Competitiveness: According to the survey and report, 73% of SBOs say not having online advertising “would impact my ability to effectively market my products and services and to grow my business.” This was especially the case for the smallest businesses and startups. Of the startups surveyed, 90% agree that “Online advertising has provided my business with an affordable option to launch and/or grow my business,” and 86% agree that the method is “important to my business survival and growth.” The ability to reach customers and potential customers through online advertising was an important factor for 80% of the entrepreneurs in starting their business.
Big Savings in Time and Labor: The efficacy of online advertising is leading to savings in time and labor, allowing small businesses to use their resources more productively. The entrepreneurs surveyed say, on average, they are saving 10.93 hours of employee time each week, and 9.28 hours a week of their own time. For 84%, saving time on labor was deemed a key advantage of online advertising over traditional advertising.
According to SBE Council estimates, employee and owner hours saved as reported by business owners in the survey, combine to an estimated $3.1 billion each week, and $162.8 billion annually. Small business owners are investing these savings of time back into the business: 42% have searched for or are investing in new growth opportunities, 31% have invested in new equipment to improve competitiveness, 29% have increased wages or benefits for employees, and 22% increased the size of their staff.

Raymond J. Keating, SBE Council’s chief economist, noted: “These survey results serve as real-world illustrations of how technological advancements—in this case, digital marketing and advertising—are reducing the barriers to entry for entrepreneurship. Reduced costs and improved efficiency when it comes to reaching customers are vital to startup activity and small business growth. Given these tech-tool realities, to say that this is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur is an understatement.”

Data and Findings

Online advertising is seen as superior to traditional methods:

  • 89% cite finding new customers as a benefit of online advertising over traditional advertising
  • 88% report that they are able to target their intended customer base more effectively
  • 87% also consider the ability to identify new customers and prospects as a benefit of online advertising over traditional methods
  • 82% of online advertisers say digital advertising has helped their businesses compete more effectively with other businesses, in comparison with traditional advertising
  • 81% say online advertising has delivered increased value and higher return on investment over traditional advertising

Online advertising has delivered increased sales for small businesses—a median increase of  12.2%. And 48% of online advertisers estimate digital advertising is responsible for a median sales increase of more than 10%.

Small businesses have also saved significant amounts of money from their advertising budgets as a result of online advertising. Each year, they save a median of $4,021 from their digital advertising efforts, with 3 in 10 reporting money savings greater than $5,000.

Facebook is the most commonly used platform among small businesses advertising online, with 84% report using the social network in the past six months. Meanwhile, 44% have used Google Ads, 42% Instagram, and Twitter was the destination of 28% small business online advertisers.

The short-term outlook for online ad spending among small businesses looks strong, with nearly 4 in 10 online advertisers anticipating an increase in spending over the next six months. Another 5 in 10 expect to maintain their current levels of online advertising spending during the same period.

You can access the full report online by clicking here.


5—New Interactive Index Analyzes Revenue Trends of U.S. Small Businesses

The Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index was just launched by Kabbage, Inc., a data and technology company providing small businesses cash flow solutions. The Index draws from  the 2 million live data connections Kabbage maintains across its customer base and is the only interactive tool analyzing live revenue trends of U.S. small businesses.

The Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index “aggregates the anonymized financial data of Main Street America small businesses, a segment whose live financial trends have historically been unavailable for public consumption and research.” Most (83%) of the businesses in the Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index, have fewer than 10 employees and a median annual revenue of $280,000.

The Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index is a great (and free) benchmarking tool that allows you to evaluate and compare your company’s revenue growth with like-sized business in your state, industry and across the country.

Revenue trends are determined by analyzing transactional data from the business banking accounts small businesses connected to the Kabbage platform. With historical growth trends beginning in 2017, the Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index indicates:

  • Small business revenue grew 19.2% between January 2018 and January 2019.
  • Small business revenue grew 18.5% from Q2 2018 to Q2 2019 and 7.6% from Q1 2019 to Q2 2019.
  • Small businesses had the most significant year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth in April and May 2019 (19.9% and 23.3%, respectively) compared to any other YoY observation in the Index.
  • The Transportation and Warehousing industry generated the greatest revenue growth (71.%) since January 2017, slightly outpacing the Construction industry at 71.8%.
  • Small businesses in Vermont had the greatest revenue growth since January 2017 with an increase of 118.2%.

“The Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index is unlike other tools or resources that supply small business growth trends as it analyzes the live data of companies instead of relying on static reports, survey responses or lagging research,” says Kabbage Head of Data Analytics and Strategy, David Snitkof.

The Kabbage Small Business Revenue Index is now available, including the methodology which summarizes how revenue trends are defined and calculated.


6—Ageism in the Workplace 

According to the 2019 Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace StudyTM, 21% of US workers age 40 and older have experienced discrimination in the workplace due to their age. Survey respondents believe they’re most likely to experience it at age 51. The study also found 67% of respondents age 65 or younger plan to continue working after they turn 66. And 62% of all workers did not receive any form of age discrimination training in the previous 12 months.

“Age discrimination in the workplace is an increasingly serious issue for businesses and employees as older generations continue to maintain their professional careers longer than their predecessors,” says Patrick Mitchell, Management Liability Product Head at Hiscox USA. “Discrimination of any kind brings serious reputational and financial risks to any business…and businesses must take the necessary steps to prevent, detect and mitigate any instances of age discrimination in the workplace in order to fully protect their organization and employees.”

Gender Plays a Role in Workplace Ageism:  While prior Hiscox data found women were more likely to experience workplace harassment, the new survey reveals men were more likely to feel that their advancing age adversely impacted their careers—43% felt their age has been a barrier to finding a new job since turning 40, compared to 30% of women. And 39% of men say age frustrated their career advancement since turning 40, compared to 24% of women.

Most Remain Silent: Only 40% of those who say they faced age discrimination in the workplace filed a charge or complaint. Why did they save silent? The fear of a report creating a hostile work environment (54%) and a lack of knowledge on how to initiate a complaint (24%).

Witnesses were also more likely to stay quiet—51% of workers who witnessed age discrimination against another employee didn’t report it, and 62% said they didn’t speak up because they feared retaliation by their employers .

The Cost of Ageism in the Workplace: Aside from the obvious cost to workers who had been discriminated against, businesses lost valuable workers—43% of respondents left a company due to experiencing or witnessing age discrimination.

Combating Workplace Ageism: Businesses should take the following steps to prevent, detect and mitigate age discrimination in the workplace:

  • Prevent age discrimination by providing workforce training.
  • Detect age discrimination by watching for behaviors that indicate older workers are being harassed, excluded from projects and underrepresented in new hiring and promotions.
  • Mitigate the risks and exposure associated with age discrimination by responding to claims immediately and thoroughly.


7—The Dos and Don’ts of Corporate Gift Giving

Guest post from Veritas Gifts, high-end independent corporate gifting specialists and a a holder of the Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen

Formerly a nice-to-have, pleasant surprise from the most thoughtful of business owners, nowadays, corporate gifting to clients is arguably an expectation. Don’t underestimate the value that a special little ‘thank you’ can have on clients with wandering eyes, or even better, for those who have been loyal to you for years.

Don’t overspend: [While] you might feel inclined to splash out and show your client how valuable they are to you, overspending with lavish gifts serves no purpose. First and foremost, this is a gesture of kindness and ‘thank-you’ for a flourishing working relationship, not kickback for their business. The last thing you want is for your gift to look is over-the-top or desperate, raising concerns about the motivations for present.

Do make it personal: Don’t send the exact same gift to everyone. Though it’s unlikely your clients would ever find out, making personal touches can make a big difference in how they view the gift. During the year try to remember something distinctive about your client, like their children’s names and ages or a special interest and keep this in mind when selecting a gift. Tailored presents are worth their weight in gold.

Don’t give promotional product with logos: Remember, this is a gift for them and not an opportunity for self-promotion. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that a branded item is something that your client will use, let alone cherish. Some business owners express worry that clients might forget who gave them the gift and that branding solves this issue, but if you receive a genuine gift that is something you appreciate, you always remember who sent the gift. Especially compared to a gift with a distasteful logo that never is likely to end up in the trash.

Do triple check spelling: Seems like a no-brainer but nothing can ruin a sentimental gift like a misspelled name. Names can be difficult, even though you’re likely to have said, seen and written it many times, costly mistakes still happen. This also applies to mailing addresses, an error in this can cause a gift to be returned to sender or worse, go missing. If you’re going to get anything right, make it the name and address of your client.

Don’t talk about business: This gift is ultimately about business, but this is not the time to talk about it. Sending gifts during the festive period is a great idea as it is linked to a special occasion and clearly not associated with a business negotiation or upcoming deal. As every great business owner knows, personal relationships are power, having an exchange that is entirely about your relationship with no mention of work shows your real interest in your client as a person.

Do professional gift wrap: This is a small touch that can go a long way. After all, you are representing your business, so expressing an exceptional level of care and attention to detail in your gift presentation makes a statement about how you handle every endeavor. Most high-quality corporate gift services will offer a gift-wrapping option, so with the simple tick of a box and most likely a small additional fee, this final, cherry-on-top can be easily achieved.


8—Subliminal Messages

Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.” Think about the ads you’ve seen that, without realizing it, shifted your perception of a brand. Ads that reached you on a subliminal (or subconscious) level. From words with double meanings to hidden Easter eggs, clever and impactful subliminal messages are plentiful across advertising mediums.

Everything from email campaigns and SEM landing pages to direct mail and social media is fair game.

Check out the infographic from Valpak which  explores how subliminal messaging works and offers tips for reaching your customers in unexpected ways.


9—Most Popular Ways to Take Care of Yourself

The new buzzword in wellness is self-care. And since this is National Self-Care Awareness month,  Advanced Dermatology recently surveyed Americans to learn more about who’s practicing self-care and why.

According to the survey:

  1. 84% of respondents consider self-care a necessity rather than an indulgence
  2. Men and women spend the same amount of time on self-care per week: 83 minutes
  3. 57% have felt guilty after making more time for self-care
  4. Top reasons for practicing self-care (1. Reduce stress 2. Feel more positive 3. Improve mental health)

The 5 most popular self-care activities were:

  1. Walking
  2. Seeing/talking to friends
  3. Watching TV and movies
  4. Music
  5. Hobbies


10—The Age of the Hourly Worker

Workplace changes are accelerating, influencing the way companies do business and suggesting that workforce stability will become an employer’s competitive edge in the years to come according to a benchmark hourly/gig hiring study from Fountain (an AI-powered gig/hourly work hiring software).

The report shows:

  • 52% of CEOs plan to increase their headcount within the next 12 months
  • 60% of those workers will be hourly employees
  • 57% of all workers will be millennials by 2025
  • The average time- to-hire for a restaurant is over 30 days, while a gig worker is usually hired in about 11 days.

The report is free.


11—You Can Win $25,000

Our friends at  Independent We Stand wants the public and business owners to help promote the importance and strong economic benefits of “buying local” through its 9th annual Indie Award. The contest provides a chance for the winning independent business to reinvest in themselves through a branding, advertising and public relations makeover valued at $25,000.

Get involved by nominating locally owned small businesses you think go above and beyond to support their communities through charitable donations and community outreach. The web-driven small business of the year award also gives supporters the opportunity to acknowledge businesses that exceed customer service expectations and grow their local economies.

“Here’s a chance for consumers to provide a boost to deserving businesses as we approach the holiday shopping season,” says Bill Brunelle, cofounder of Independent We Stand. “For the first time in the history of the contest, we’re announcing the winner in the lead-up to Small Business Saturday. It’s all part of our mission to help bolster the efforts to grow small business and recognize them for their economic and philanthropic impact on communities.”

Anyone can nominate a small business online. Voting begins as soon as a business is nominated. Consumers can vote a maximum of 25 times per 24-hour period from the same IP address. Any locally owned and operated business in the U.S. is eligible to enter the contest. Nominate and vote at IndieBizAward.com. The nomination phase and initial voting run through October 20.

The winner of the 2019 Indie Award will receive:

  • Branding, advertising and public relations makeover from independent advertising agency — The Meridian Group— valued at $25,000
  • $1,000 STIHL equipment certificate
  • Plaque to display at winner’s business
  • Public relations and social media recognition
  • Quarterfinalists receive a lifetime Independent We Stand Premium Membership

The quarterfinalist announcement is October 28 followed by semifinalist voting through Nov. 17. The announcement of the Indie Award winner is on November 25, ahead of Small Business Saturday.

To nominate and vote for your favorite small business, visit www.IndieBizAward.com.


12—Hardest Working Cities in U.S.

What are the hardest-working cities in America? Kempler Industries recently analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau from nearly 200 cities across the U.S. with a population of 150,000 or more and ranked them. Based on the data, Texans seem to be hard at work.

The top 10 cities were:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Plano, TX
  3. Dallas
  4. Grand Prairie, TX
  5. Houston
  6. Garland, TX
  7. San Francisco
  8. Irving, TX
  9. Arlington, TX
  10. New York City

The rankings were based on  5 key metrics:

  1. Average commute time
  2. Average workweek hours
  3. Percentage of workforce population aged 16-64
  4. Percentage of senior workforce aged 65 and up
  5. The percentage of unused vacation days

There are lots more details here.


Cool Tools


13—Save Big on New iPhones

T-Mobile is offering customers 50% (or more) off any new iPhone with a qualified trade-in. That includes single lines, family plans, current customers, switchers. Everybody. This is not a buy one get one, not just for new customers—it’s just half (or more) off—for everyone.

Our 50% off works if you trade-in an equitable device, for example, trade in an iPhone 7 and get half off iPhone 11. Or trade in iPhone XS Max for half off the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere says: “Apple’s latest iPhone taps into our newest, most powerful signal, 600 MHz—no signal goes farther or is more reliable. Customers with 600 MHz smartphones, like the new iPhones, get 52% more LTE coverage and use almost 50% more data than those without the latest smartphones.”

Pre-order for iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max and Apple Watch Series 5 is available now online or in T-Mobile stores or by calling Team of Experts (1-800-937-8997 or T-Mobile customers can dial 611). The new iPhones will be available starting September 20 in T-Mobile stores across the nation. iPad availability to follow on September 30.

T-Mobile for Business customers are also eligible for the same above deal and more, head here for all the business offer deals.

Full pricing details (before the 50% off) for 24 months for well-qualified customers on T-Mobile’s no-interest Equipment Installment Plan:

  • iPhone 11 64GB starts at $0 down, $29.17/month (Full Retail Price: $699.99), iPhone 11 128GB starts at $0 down, $31.25/month (Full Retail Price: $749.99), iPhone 11 256GB starts at $99.99 down, $31.25/month (Full Retail Price: $849.99)
  • iPhone 11 Pro 64GB starts at $249.99 down, $31.25/month (FRP: $999.99), iPhone 11 Pro 256GB starts at $399.99 down and  $31.25/month (FRP: $1,149.99), iPhone 11 Pro 512 GB starts at $599.99 down and  $31.25/month (FRP: $1,349.99)
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max 64GB starts at $349.99 down, $31.25/month (FRP: $1,099.99), iPhone 11 Pro Max 256GB starts at $499.99 down and $31.25/month (FRP: $1,249.99), iPhone 11 Pro Max 512 GB starts at $699.99 down and  $31.25/month (FRP: $1,449.99)

There’s more details on the Apple offer at T-Mobile.


14—Sales Forecasting Software

Guest post from  Intuendi, which offers demand forecasting and inventory optimization software.

If you own a business, then you know your company needs to generate forecasts for short or long-term sales. Sales forecasts can help companies:

  • Be more accurate in the financial reporting and manage the budget more efficiently,
  • Create better marketing strategies that are integrated with sales,
  • Plan the production, purchasing, and inventory in advance, thus improving the supply chain management of the business.

In this era of technology and advancements, you get the chance to simplify the time-consuming forecasting process by adopting a sales forecasting software. Using software for forecasting has many advantages that can make your life easier by generating fast and accurate predictions for your sales. However, the sales forecasting software has some disadvantages too.

In the infographic below, you can learn about all the pros and cons of sales forecasting software.


Quick Clicks


15—5 Elements Every Retailer Should Embrace. “We all know that e-commerce is not putting retailers out of business, it’s simply changing the way customers connect to brands,” says, Defining the 21st Century Store, a thorough report from WD Partners. If you’re a retailer, you need to take a look at report.


16—Want to get started with affiliate marketing? BUILDAPRENEUR tells you how.


Business owner stock photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock