14 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know


1—Barriers to Cross-Border Growth

As the world continues to shrink and more and more companies embrace doing business cross-borders, the Visa Global Merchant eCommerce Study reveals that small businesses face bigger hurdles than mid-sized and big businesses.

Sadly, despite the rapid growth of cross-border commerce, many small businesses are still standing on the sidelines due to larger gaps in resources, experience and opportunity. Small businesses (71%) are less likely to try to expand into new markets, compared to mid-sized  (90%) and large (100%) businesses.

The study shows small business executives aren’t as eager to tie their growth strategy to international sales, perhaps because a misstep could have greater consequences. Small businesses (23%) are much more likely to disagree that having an international presence would be essential for their company’s success in the next five years, compared to mid-sized (8%) and large (5%) companies.

As a result, small businesses lag far behind participating in the booming international sales market—only 40% of them engage in cross-border trade, compared to mid-sized (71%) and large (92%).

The study also shows a product or service that is popular domestically may not have the same appeal globally for various reasons, including cultural ones. Small business leaders (61%) are more likely to not be completely confident their company knows how to maximize international online sales, compared to executives of mid-sized (48%) and large (50%) businesses.

Small businesses (39%) are significantly more likely to say that their company is not prepared to handle international transactions, compared to medium (14%) and large (7%) businesses.

The study concludes that small businesses face an uphill struggle to compete globally, mainly due to knowledge and resource gaps. In fact, 92% of executives agree current business solutions favor larger businesses while ignoring smaller ones.


2—Emerging Industries

What’s hot? 99designs has identified some emerging industries they expect will see explosive growth this year.

Astrology-related  businesses: Already an estimated $2.1 billion dollar industry that’s caught the eye of venture  capitalists, astrology businesses include everything from horoscope apps and podcasts  to spiritual consultancies. The number of astrology-related brands in this sector getting design work has risen 209% since 2015 and more than doubled (127% increase) in the past 12 months.

Biohacking: Also known as ‘DIY biology,’ biohacking encompasses a wide array of practices used to  boost physical and mental performance.  That can mean anything from sleep tracking and IV hydration therapy to intermittent fasting and much more. The number of businesses in this sector commissioning creative work on 99designs is up 445% since 2015 and 71% in the past year alone.

CBD businesses: Already estimated to be a multi-billion dollar global industry  spanning food and drink, health and beauty, pet products and more, 99designs has seen an incredible 1568% increase in CBD-related design work since 2015. With a sharp 61% increase over the past 12 months, the sector is showing no signs of slowing down as it continues to shed its social stigma thanks to more widespread legalization and increased public awareness of the difference between psychoactive (THC) and non-psychoactive cannabis extracts.

Vegan and plant-based products: Continuing with the health and wellness trend, vegan and plant-based  brands continue to flourish with the number of design projects in this space showing a 20% increase year-over-year, and a 214% increase since 2015.

“Every year we take the pulse of what’s rising and waning in the types of businesses creating brands on our platform. It’s a fun way to spot emerging industry trends on a global scale,” says 99designs COO Pamela Webber. “While last year it was all about drones, AI healthcare and influencer agencies, 2020 shows a notable shift toward the wellness space. We think it is driven by  consumers seeking to take control and wanting to address social anxieties and concerns about their health, happiness and future success.”


3—Gen Z Characteristics

EY recently released its proprietary Gen Z Segmentation Study highlighting unexpected characteristics about Gen Z. For example, Gen Z is not as social media obsessed as you may think. While 84% of Gen Z have a social media account, they use it more for communication than for posting publicly like past generations. According to the research, these are the top reasons Gen Z use social media:

  • 80% use it to connect with family and friends
  • 72% use it to satisfy boredom
  • 41% use it to stay updated on the news
  • only 22% share opinions through social sites

Marketers and employers need to understand how diverse the Gen Z population is. The report examines various aspects of Gen Z’s life, including different groupings within the generation, their values and their parents.

Additional key findings

Highlighting the diversity of the generation, the research uncovered that Gen Z is made up of the following five groups. The percentages show how much of the generation each represents:

  1. Stressed Strivers (35%): high achievers, driven by a fear of not being good enough
  2. Big Plans, Low Energy(18%): expect to do well and make money, but aren’t necessarily willing to put in the effort
  3. Carefree Constituents (16%): the definition of “go with the flow”; may not drive change, but will be the ones who adopt it into the mainstream
  4. Authentic Activists(16%): motivated by the obligation to save the world — and the fear of what will happen if they don’t
  5. Secluded Perfectionists(15%): focused on being the best, not for money or accolades, but for the love of what they do

More about Gen Z

  • Values: Today’s youth are driven and future-thinking, 79% feel doing well in school is very or extremely important and 72% spending time on activities that will help them in the future
  • Trust: As an extremely diverse, independent and proactive generation, Gen Z have strong personalities and values, making it hard to gain their loyalty — 67% of Gen Z say that people cannot be trusted.


4—Small Business Creditworthiness & Confidence Remain Strong

Despite economic uncertainty, small business owners remain confident heading into 2020 as creditworthiness holds steady entering the new year according to proprietary credit data from Square Capital. The report shows small business creditworthiness slightly improved to 79 in 2019, up from 78 in 2018, on a scale of 0-100.

Businesses that are most creditworthy are those in the health & beauty industry (89) and other sectors less prone to economic cycles(1), such as health services (82) and food and beverage (80).

Square Capital also partnered with the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to determine whether sentiment around credit and business strength tracks against its internal data. Using survey data from over 1,000 small businesses, Square Capital and Wharton created a Small Business Confidence Index to measure businesses’ outlook on their sales and access to credit over the next 12 months. The Confidence Index is a score between 100 (completely confident) to -100 (not confident at all). For 2019, the Small Business Confidence Index was 56, demonstrating relatively high confidence and an optimistic outlook around growth and access to funding.

Confidence is highest for business owners ages 18-34 (indexing at 69), as well as those located in urban areas (61). Conversely, business owners ages 55+ (42) and rural businesses (49) have some of the lowest Confidence Index positions.

Survey results also found that access to credit remains challenging—47% of small businesses say they find obtaining financing to be a difficult or frustrating process, and 37% believe that obtaining financing does not feel accessible. Perhaps for this reason, 52% of small businesses report using a personal credit card to finance their businesses.

Other key findings on credit access include:

While access to credit remains challenging, it’s easier to access financing in rural and suburban businesses: Urban small businesses reported the most difficulty accessing the funding they needed—54%)did not receive any or all of the funding they needed, as opposed to 44% in rural and 47% in suburban areas. However, businesses within urban environments are more bullish on their sales in the next 12 months, with 74% of them expecting their sales to grow, versus 66% of businesses in rural and 62% of businesses in suburban areas saying the same.

Minority business owners are more likely to apply for financing—but less likely to receive it: Minority-owned small businesses were significantly more likely than White/Caucasian small business owners to apply for financing in the last 12 months, suggesting financing is especially crucial for minority-owned businesses. However, White/Caucasian and Asian business owners are the only segment for which a majority of respondents state they received all the funding they need (55% and 53%, respectively). The following shows the discrepancies in funding:

Percent who applied for financing:

  • Black/African-American: 94%
  • Asian: 90%
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 85%
  • White/Caucasian: 70%

Percent who were underfunded:

  • Black/African-American: 58%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 67%
  • Asian: 47%
  • White/Caucasian: 45%

To review the findings for yourself and learn more about the state of small business, please read The Capital Report here.


5—Get Cash Flow Flexibility with New Custom Loans

Kabbage, Inc. just launched access to custom loans for Kabbage Payments customers. The new lending product gives small businesses more control over short-term funding needs. Integrating Kabbage Funding with Kabbage Payments marks the first of many new solutions from Kabbage as it expands to help small businesses efficiently analyze and manage their cash flow.

With custom loans, Kabbage Payments customers choose any term between three and 45 days and either repay in full when the loan reaches maturity or allocate up to 100 percent of Kabbage Payments revenue towards the balance over the selected period. Repayments are only made when a customer processes payments, not daily, and any remaining balance is due at the end of the term. Custom loans have a one-time fee starting as low as 0.1%, and pricing adjusts dynamically, depending on the term length and repayment method chosen. The result is a new cash flow solution that gives small businesses greater flexibility before they make a funding decision.

“We’re changing the dynamics of cash flow for small businesses by integrating solutions that help them quickly settle payments and access flexible funding to better manage their businesses,” says Kabbage CEO, Rob Frohwein.

Now available to U.S. small businesses, Kabbage Payments also offers unlimited online invoicing, next-day deposits, zero monthly fees and free customer support.* With its unique pay link feature, customers are getting paid via email, texts and the web in less than 24 hours. New Kabbage Payments customers will save with a competitively low fee of 2.25% per credit-card transaction until June 2020. You can sign up for free and immediately start creating, sending and settling invoices through Kabbage Payments to get paid faster.

*Please visit for terms and conditions.


6—Top 2020 Cybersecurity Concerns

Untangle® Inc., a leader in comprehensive network security for SMBs and distributed enterprises, just released its second annual Voice of the Channel report, which surveyed Channel Partners, both locally and internationally, to better understand the current cybersecurity trends impacting the channel, as well as their security predictions for 2020. The survey results look at current trends and barriers that Channel Partners face when protecting clients against emerging threats and how they will shape future strategic business decisions for Managed Security Providers (MSPs) and Value-Added Resellers (VARs).

Channel Partners, IT security professionals who assist SMBs and businesses with network security deployment, were integral in 2019’s battle against cyberattacks. Cybercriminals shifted their target to weaknesses within business supply chains to gain entry into networks, but MSPs were fast to mitigate and help customers recover from these attacks. However, more than 100 Channel Partners surveyed report they continue to face three significant barriers within the cybersecurity market: budget constraints, limited client solution knowledge, and limited time to research and understand new threats. This echoes results found in 2018.

“For many organizations, MSPs are the first and sometimes the only line of defense against a cyberattack. Channel Partners, by nature of their role in helping source solutions, inherit the barriers that SMB’s face in the cybersecurity market and need to work within the budgets allocated,” says Steve Young, channel marketing manager at Untangle. “

Key highlights of the report include:

  • 65% of Channel Partners purchase cybersecurity solutions directly from a vendor.
  • 23% of Channel Partners surveyed believe lack of customer knowledge is the number-one barrier in the cybersecurity market, followed by budget constraints (22%), and limited time to research and understand new threats (13%).
  • 27% of Channel Partners believe that moving customer and client data to the cloud offers better security than on-premises solutions.
  • In 2019, respondents said providing cybersecurity solutions was over 50% of their overall business, in comparison to 2018, where 77% of respondents said cybersecurity was less than 30% of their overall business.
  • Channel Partners identified their clients were specifically targeted by phishing (84%), malware (84%), and ransomware (63%) attacks.
  • 35% of Channel Partners are considering adding identity and access management along with risk and compliance management to their 2020 portfolio.
  • Price (36%), limited experience (26%) and lack of trust (20%) are the top barriers the channel experiences when their clients begin or consider adopting cloud security solutions.

The good news for SMBs is that 99% of Channel Partners indicate cybersecurity, as an overall part of their business, will increase or stay the same in 2020, while 85% believe their cybersecurity revenue will increase in 2020. Other key 2020 predictions include:

  • The largest threats the channel expects to encounter in 2020 are ransomware (46%) and phishing (25%).
  • Future product offerings will include Compliance-as-a-Service (CaaS) for clients who require additional reporting and regulations, such as schools, libraries, financial institutions and government offices.

Further findings from the Voice of the Channel report are available here. Get more information on Untangle’s partner program.


7—How to Handle Office Romances         

Recent research in the UK  into changing attitudes towards office romance reveals 24% of people aged 25-34 have had a long-term relationship with a colleague, compare to just 12% of those over 65. Plus, 29% of 25-34-year-olds say they’ve had a one-night stand with someone at work. Only 12% of over 65s say the same.

The study conducted by office suppliers Viking (there’s more info on their blog) also highlights how more companies are introducing policies on office romance. But only 44% of 25-34-year-olds are aware of their employer’s policy regarding relationships at work.

Creating and communicating an office romance policy helps combat some of the issues internal relationships can cause. While office romance is on the rise, many people who’ve  had relationships highlighted the struggles they faced at work—37% of office workers say it decreased their productivity and creativity, 21% say it increases stress, and 20% claim it had a negative effect on their wellbeing.

For those aged 225-34, 44% say the worst thing about having a relationship with a colleague is being the subject of office gossip. For over 65s, the biggest issue was keeping it a secret (41%).


Cool Tools

8—Get More from Business Advantage 360 from Bank of America

On the first anniversary of the launch of Business Advantage 360, its one-stop digital dashboard for business owners, Bank of America announced it can now integrate data from key third-party business applications to provide a more complete financial picture for small businesses.

Complementing its existing offering, which provides a view of business cash flow and access to real-time expertise and guidance, Business Advantage 360 can now seamlessly integrate data into the dashboard from QuickBooks® Online, RUN Powered by ADP®, G Suite by Google Cloud, and Google Analytics.

“One year after launching Business Advantage 360, we’re taking this solution to the next level to help our clients focus on the many other tasks that make their businesses successful,” says Sharon Miller, head of Small Business at Bank of America. “The insight and data integration upgrades create incredible convenience for entrepreneurs to manage their businesses’ complete financial picture.”

“Business Advantage 360 has delivered an innovative and convenient solution for business owners to manage their cash flow,” says David Tyrie, head of advanced solutions and digital banking at Bank of America. “As we continue to cultivate strong client relationships through our high-tech capabilities combined with our high-touch approach, the integration of third-party applications provides an enhanced experience for business owners.”

The business advantage for small business owners: According to the FDIC, Bank of America maintained its position as the nation’s top small business lender at the end of the third quarter of 2019, with $37.6 billion in total outstanding small business loans (defined as business loans in original amounts of $1 million and under), up 8% year over year.

In addition to providing small business owners leading digital tools and access to capital to manage their businesses successfully, Bank of America provides its business clients rewards and solutions to grow their businesses through its Preferred Rewards for Business program. Preferred Rewards for Business members receive interest rate boosters on savings accounts, discounts on business loans, monthly maintenance fee waivers, and rewards bonuses on credit cards to supplement their everyday small business banking solutions.


9—Wix Unveils Editor X, Ltd. (NASDAQ: WIX) just unveiled Editor X, a website creation platform offering advanced design and layouting capabilities specifically targeted to designers and web agencies. The wide, flexible new canvas allows the use of modern CSS technologies including Flexbox and Grid, all with precise drag and drop, so designers and web creators can control the exact position and styling of elements at every viewport.

The sophisticated design capabilities and approachable CSS technology are combined with Wix’s rich suite of business solutions, and additional coding capabilities if wanted, enabling the creation of powerful, complex websites at scale.

“We understand the evolving needs of designers and their clients, and we innovate to address their sophisticated demands and diverse requirements,” says Wix cofounder and CEO Avishai Abrahami. Editor X is the solution for these users with more complex design needs.”

Product Details:

Using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, Editor X allows for advanced responsive design without using code and includes the following features:

  • Grid Layouting isan advanced two-dimensional layouting system based on CSS Grid
  • Docking anchors elements to a specific position as the viewport changes
  • Stack & scalemedia for seamless responsive behavior
  • Text Scaleto create scalable font sizes
  • Flex Layouter isa smart layouting system relying on Flexbox technology for automatic reorganization of content while resizing
  • Advanced sizing control defines your element as fixed or fluid, using wide support for modern CSS units
  • Custom Breakpointsto tailor designs to any viewport, not just classic devices
  • Wix Design System featuring sections with built-in responsive behavior matched to the color palette of your site
  • Flexible Canvas with resizing handles to instantly see and customize your design across viewports
  • Drag and drop functionality forall advanced tools

You can watch a video demo here.


10—Square for Retail now available on Square Register

Square just announced the availability of Square for Retail on Square Register, enabling the point-of-sale solution optimized specifically for retailers to run on Square’s end-to-end, integrated POS built for larger sellers. This new offering provides access to everything a retail seller needs to run their business in one, easy-to-use solution.

With Square for Retail, business owners can efficiently manage their storefront, back office, and online store all in one place. Sellers can also stay ahead of the curve and sync their items, inventory, prices, and data instantly, across online and offline channels. Square for Retail makes running a business quick and intuitive, with a full suite of tools including stock and vendor management, margin reporting, and more.

Similarly, Square Register gives sellers a powerful combination of dedicated hardware, embedded software, and Square’s fast and secure payments technology, all built to work together seamlessly. Its sleek design features a built-in seller display and a detachable, customizable, customer display that lets customers see their purchase and pay on screen in just a few taps. Square Register gives any business a modern, polished look and helps them make the most out of valuable countertop real estate.

Retail sellers can take advantage of unique benefits when combining the power of both these products. With Square for Retail on Register, sellers can skip complicated onboarding and the pain of managing multiple devices in favor of an all-in-one POS solution specifically designed for retail workflows and built directly into their hardware.

“The launch of Square for Retail on Register provides retailers the best of Square’s hardware and software in one fast, secure, and intuitive solution,” says Jesse Dorogusker, head of hardware at Square. “We’re proud to offer sellers a powerful, new solution, specifically designed with the unique needs of retail businesses in mind.”

Get pricing information.


11—Audiovisual Tools Are Enhancing Business Productivity… When They Work

AV tools are widely used by SMBs and provide a range of benefits, but too often they don’t work as expected, creating an ongoing burden for in-house support staff, according to a just released survey on audiovisual (AV) tools from Onepath, a provider of managed technology services to SMBs.

AV tools such as video monitors, projectors, and recorders have a long history of providing value in the workplace. Among other things, they’re useful for presentations and connecting remote workers. But AV tools are also notoriously difficult to set up and maintain, and many companies lack the time and resources to handle this responsibility. Web-based AV tools have eliminated some of these problems by shifting maintenance needs to the vendors, but too many SMBs are still woefully unprepared. This point is supported by the results of Onepath’s survey:

AV Tools are More Popular Than Ever and Offer a Wide Range of Benefits: 88% of IT pros responding to Onepath’s survey say AV tools are used by company employees weekly or daily, and 59% say they’re used by at least half the company’s staff. Web-based video tools are the most popular (77%), followed by video monitors (75%), projectors (68%) and web-based audio (64%). Meanwhile, 76% of respondents say AV tools are being used to increase productivity, and 45% say they are used to eliminate employee travel. AV tools are being used to show presentations (78%) and to connect with remote workers (77%).

Problems with AV Tools are Persistent and Costly: 61% of respondents say employees experience problems with AV tools weekly or daily. Common problems include poor Wi-Fi, web, cloud, or Bluetooth connectivity (48%), an inability to see or hear everyone on audio/video conferences (37%), and difficulties using or setting up tools (27%). More troubling is the perceived inability of companies to deal with these issues—29% say their companies have too few people to help with AV problems, and 24% say IT lacks the expertise necessary to handle them. Plus, 53% say at least 6 hours are wasted in company meetings every month due to AV challenges.

SMBs are Dedicating Significant Resources to Support AV Issues: 29% of survey respondents say their companies have at least 8 people who are responsible for maintaining AV tools, while 62% of companies have at least 4 people. AV support staff is receiving at least 11 help requests per week (40%), 69% are fielding at least 5 requests every week, 42% says it takes at least 4 hours to respond to typical AV support tickets, while 15% say 1-2 days is the average. Experience with video systems (78%), web and cloud-based systems (76%), and audio systems (75%) scored about the same in terms of which skills are most important for maintaining AV technologies, and 58% say it was somewhat or very difficult to find workers with these skills. Budget-wise, 62% of companies spend at least $10,000 a year on AV tools and support, and 46% get help from an outside consultant.

“The data in our report is consistent with what we’re hearing from our clients,” says Michael Lane, Director of Commercial Interiors & Audiovisual at Onepath. “SMBs continue to make heavy use of AV tools and they’re investing in these technologies as much as ever. But it doesn’t mean the tools are foolproof, and in most cases, significant resources are needed to support their use. As new tools emerge and more companies depend on remote staff, we expect use of AV technologies to increase.”


12—Self Service Provides Radically Personal Customer Service

Gladly, the company that makes customer service “Radically Personal,” recently introduced Self Service to its platform, giving customers more choice in how they engage with their favorite brands. According to research from Harvard Business Review, customers want to help themselves—81% of consumers attempt to take care of matters before reaching out to a live representative.

Gladly’s Self Service gives customers the freedom to self serve, getting localized, context-based answers specific to their current behavior and shopping history. The product provides a rich variety of information to customers, all delivered by Gladly’s Self Service chat widget, called Sidekick. Those answers include:

  • Answers in Context: Self Service gives customers answers to common questions based on context from their current behavior, which provides the most accurate, of-the-moment information to busy customers. If a customer is checking out online, for instance, they can receive answers specific to payment questions through Sidekick.
  • Personalized Answers : Self Service can also personalize the information it provides customers to ensure they continue to receive Radically Personal service. If a customer is dialing into a company’s IVR, Gladly can serve answers to personal questions—like loyalty points balance or upcoming flight information—directly to the customer.
  • Multi-Language Answers: Brands can localize their public FAQs from one central knowledge base across different languages with Self Service, allowing brands to manage multiple types of content in different countries where language and specific instructions may change.

Self Service gives customers the tools to find answers on their own, without waiting for an agent or spending time hunting down information. For all customers that interact with Self Service through Sidekick, 64% never proceed to starting a chat, indicating that Self Service was able to answer pertinent questions accurately.

For brands, Gladly’s Self Service provides benefits that keep customers engaged and agents productive. According to Forrester, 66% of online adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience. The reality is, customers want to self serve—and companies that give customers what they want will drive lifelong relationships based on trust.

“There’s a common misconception about Self Service—that it’s meant to deflect customers from talking to agents,” says Joseph Ansanelli, CEO and co-founder of Gladly. “It’s not about deflection. Self Service gives customers choice and answers at their fingertips for the most Radically Personal customer service possible — and they love it.”


Quick Clicks

13—Coping with a Life Crisis

The Senior List says lot of Americans are in crisis:

  • 45% of millennials and 33% of Gen Xers are currently experiencing a work-related life crisis, 13 and 15 months into their jobs on average respectively
  • 75% of Americans experience a career-related life crisis—taking 3 months to recover on average
  • Nearly half of Americans believe their salaries are never in their control (women 14% more likely than men), while 30% feel they’re never living up to their career potential
  • People with high confidence in their coping abilities primarily rely upon friends, whereas those “not at all confident” rely primarily upon alcohol to cope


14—Every business needs a website. UmbrellaHost says you can create one for free.

Business stock photo by David Pereiras/Shutterstock