By Rieva Lesonsky

9 Things Entrepreneurs Should Know

1) What’s Work?

In its DNA of an Entrepreneur study, Hiscox discovered Millennials and Baby Boomers have vastly different definitions of what work is. Especially interesting for entrepreneurs with different generations of employees on staff.

Hiscox What's Work 090514

2) Turn Local Searches into Quality Leads

Speaking of leads, are you looking for a way to get more (and better quality) leads? Of course you are, what small business isn’t? YP, a leading local marketing solutions provider, has introduced a new product—ypSearch, which offers “an easy way to have your search ads delivered on YP, which has an audience of 80 million monthly visitors across web and mobile” and the major search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo).

Here’s how it works: “Business owners gain access to a dedicated team of consultants who provide hands-on support throughout a campaign, including tracking and monitoring performance. In addition to automating many of the complex tasks required to build and manage a campaign across multiple search sites at once, the new optimization engine takes in performance data across those search sites to manage budgets on a daily basis.”

Darren Clark, CTO at YP says, “With ypSearch, businesses now have a new way to turn local searches into leads for their businesses by reaching the valuable YP audience.”

According to a recent comScore study (commissioned by YP), consumers who initiated a search on YP were more influenced by advertising—66 percent made a purchase after their search and 61 percent searched for a business after seeing it featured in an ad.

ypSearch is rolling out to markets across the country.

3) Mobile Made Easy

Microsoft just announced the release of Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) in Open Licensing, which offers an affordable and unified suite of mobile management solutions to small and midsized businesses. The new software suite allows you to more easily and efficiently manage all of the mobile devices and applications used in your business, and get enterprise-grade data protection and security.

This level of protection is essential in this day of BYOD (bring your own device), where your employees can inadvertently leave your company vulnerable.

Thomas Hansen, the vice president of Worldwide SMB at Microsoft says after meeting SMB business owners, he realized they wanted to deploy a mobile workforce, but were concerned about finding a cost-effective way to manage a mobile environment. This software solves that issue.

 

4) Small Business Forecast: Sunny

Bank of America and CFI Group just released its semi-annual Bank of America/CFI Group Small Business Forecast. The index measures the factors that drive development and the economy in the small business community and reveals expectations for staffing, spending and revenue along with economic health and lifestyle satisfaction in the coming year.

Some key findings of the Forecast include:

  • Small business owners rated the health of their local economies 20 percent higher than they did six months ago and they are 14 percent more optimistic about the potential for economic growth than they were last August.
  • Overall, their businesses are stronger, but they’re still cautious about hiring employees and capital spending in the near term.
  • While small business owners feel the financial environment is strong, their local tax environment is a top concern—33 percent say it’s “unfavorable” and 12 percent say it’s “very unfavorable.”
  • Small business owners say health care costs continue to be the biggest risk facing their business.

Robb Hilson, small business executive at Bank of America, says, “We’re excited to see how small business owners’ enthusiasm and increased confidence will shape their plans for long-term business growth.”

How optimistic are small business owners? Only 15 percent of them rate the health of their small businesses as “poor” or “very poor,” while 37 percent say their are doing “well” or “very well.” They report their access to credit is up 7 percent from six months ago they their companies are in a “a better cash flow position.”

Small business owners still have some concerns:

  • Difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill open positions at their companies
  • Staff turnover
  • 33 percent rate their local tax environments as “unfavorable”
  • Strength of the U.S. dollar
  • Regulatory environment
  • Consumer spending
  • Reputational risk.

You can get a full copy of the report and get more insights from their infographic.

5) Smart Cash Flow Solutions

As small business owners, we can’t wait for long periods of time to get paid, or deal with lots of red tape to get the capital we need to move at the speed today’s customers expect. Luckily there are quick, simple, online solutions available to help with that, including one from BlueVine that provides SMBs with a credit line to finance their invoices. Businesses can also get working capital with the click of a button, instead of waiting months to get paid on outstanding invoices.

BlueVine integrates directly with existing accounting software and provides a list of all outstanding invoices with net terms. Other features include:

  • Reviews and approves applications for a credit line within 24 hours
  • Provides small businesses with a credit line between $5,000 and $50,000, once approved
  • Supplies an advance on one or multiple invoices up to their maximum credit line
  • Processes the transaction with the click of a button, often within just a few hours for returning customers
  • Advances 85 percent of the value of an outstanding invoice, and provides a rebate for the additional 15 percent back, minus a small fee, when the small business client pays
  • Charges between 0.5 – 1% per week depending on the monthly accounts receivable volume of the customer

All this helps free up cash flow so you can pay expenses and focus on growing your businesses.

6) 3 Quick Steps to Achieving Sales & Marketing Alignment

Do your marketing and sales teams work together? If you’re like most businesses, the answer is “no.” In fact, only 10 percent of companies say they are completely coordinated in demand generation and sales training alignment. This is a major hurdle resulting in poor ROI, slow pipeline growth, poor conversion and ultimately, loss of revenue.

Leadspace CEO Doug Bewsher, who’s been a major player in the sales/marketing game for years, says one of the biggest obstacles to demand gen success is “misalignment between sales and marketing. While certainly not every sales and marketing team can always work in perfect lock step, there are some simple steps you can take to get everyone working together like a well-oiled machine.” Bewsher suggests you:

  • Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) JOINTLY. Marketing and sales often have differing ideas on who makes the best prospects and customers. Instead of working on instinct, dig into your historical sales data and determine what characteristics your best buyers have in common. What drives them? What titles convert faster or better based on hard data? Who makes up their buying committees? Use this model to jointly determine your ICP.
  • Identify lead stages. What defines a lead? What differentiates a qualified lead from a sales qualified or a sales accepted lead? Ideally, both teams should be able to recognize leads at each stage, but at the very least, they must agree on the terminology. Start by educating each side on the agreed upon lead stages or adopting the Demand Waterfall methodology.
  • Establish agreed-upon SLAs. Define a process for what happens when a lead is generated or qualified. What steps does each team take (manually or via marketing automation) to engage the lead? Who follows up, how and when? This not only eliminates confusion and reduces accusations that “someone” dropped the ball, but also enables you to establish metrics for each phase of the process. By evaluating the results periodically, you can also make adjustments to refine the process to maximize efficacy.

Best in class organizations with tight marketing and sales alignment achieve a 31.6 percent year-over-year growth in revenue. On the flip side, those without suffer a 6.7 percent average decline in revenue. By implementing these few simple steps, your team can be well on the way to a more efficient, aligned process that drives measureable growth.

7) The Easy Way to Train Your Employees

Lesson.ly, a leader in employee training software, just released new analytics and user-interface features for its training solution. The company says the new release “makes it easy to build, share, and track training for customer-service teams, sales teams, and new employee onboarding.” The primary changes include:

  • Intuitive dashboard:  Clearly view underlying lessons in each course, while moving easily from one lesson to another with only a click
  • Tracking capabilities: Monitor employee progress with a visual dashboard
  • Daily digest: Get a daily report on lesson and course completion

Lesson.ly is often integrated with Salesforce to help administrators tie training outcomes to increased on-the-job productivity.

Why invest in employee training? Reports show employees were 69 percent more likely to stay in a position at least three years when engaged with proper and consistent training procedures.

8) Your Mobile Business Travel Companion

For so many entrepreneurs, travel is a constant part of our routines. And it’s not getting any easier. More road warriors are demanding advanced technical solutions from their travel providers. And mobility is key to a better travel experience. According to a recent study from Expedia.com20 percent (and rising) of bookings on are done via smartphones or tablets and 97 percent of business travelers bring travel with at least one of those devices on each trip.

Egencia, a part of Expedia, offers a mobile application offering, allowing travelers to stay on top of their travel itineraries and make any necessary changes quickly while traveling.

Like a personal travel assistant, Egencia TripNavigator notifies you when it’s time to check in to your flight, alerts you if don’t have a hotel booked, and even reminds you to fill up your rental car with gas before returning it—complete with the locations of nearby gas stations. Flight, hotel, car and rail booking details and alerts are transmitted directly to your mobile device, so you always have the most recent information at your fingertips. And if part of your itinerary is delayed or canceled, TripNavigator lets you shop and book a room at a nearby hotel, or provides options to connect with an Egencia Travel Consultant to book new arrangements.

The TripNavigator also includes real-time travel alerts, flight displays, online check-in and other features. The TripNavigator app is available for download through the Apple Appstore, iTunes or Google Play, (search for Egencia) or through Egencia’s mobile website. You can try the app using the “explore” option available on the “sign in” screen.

 

9) Is Your Small Business Innovative?

According to Breakthrough Innovation, a new study from Arthur D. Little (ADL), only 10 percent of businesses are confident they’re taking the right approach to breakthrough innovation. In fact, ADL found 88 percent of business leaders were dissatisfied with their strategies for nurturing breakthrough—or radical—innovation.

At the same time, however, companies expected the revenue contributions from breakthrough innovation to double over the next five years. And companies with clearly defined innovation goals and dedicated breakthrough teams saw 15percent more revenue gains and expressed more confidence in their breakthrough innovation activities.

Based on the survey ADL identified some best practices if you want to  create breakthrough innovation:

  • Set strategic objectives for breakthrough innovation: 90 percent of companies recognized the importance of defining specific strategic objectives for breakthrough innovation, but only half had done this. Those that had were four times more satisfied with the results than those that hadn’t.
  • Choose the right organizational model: the best approach depends on the complexity of the technology and your capability in this area.
  • Use agile processes with rapid iteration cycles to deliver new concepts fast. This is what start-ups do to challenge established players.
  • Actively manage the innovation ecosystem by establishing clear working practices and strong lines of communication with external networks and partners.
  • Nurture a creative culture by using multiple tools, approaches, symbols and messages.

Fail again, fail better: move on and leverage the lessons learned.

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+   and Twitter.com/Rieva.