8 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know
1—Small Business Owners Report Record Confidence
Employers are experiencing record high levels of confidence about their businesses and financial future, according to data from the 2019 Q4 MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index. The overall Index score increased again this quarter, marking the highest number since the Index’s inception. The survey reports more than 71% of small business owners currently have a “strong outlook” on the small business environment and are optimistic about their own business health, the highest level recorded in the Index since it began in 2017.
In addition, the number of small business owners who have a positive outlook on their local economies has 59%. Not only are small business owners confident in what they see as healthy local economies, 57% believe the U.S. economy is in good health, continuing an overall positive trend since Q1 2019. Midwest small businesses rank the most optimistic concerning the national economy with 62% of business owners believing the economy to be in good health.
“This quarter’s findings emphasize that small businesses are one of the backbones of our economy,” says Jessica Moser, senior vice president, Small & Specialty Business, MetLife. “Although we hear media reports of many larger businesses retrenching, in most industries small businesses continue to thrive, and many indicate plans to expand, whether by increasing headcount, increasing investment in the business, or both.”
Hiring pace remains hot: 20% of small businesses report increasing their staff size over the past year, the highest percentage in the Index’s history. Hiring plans also showed interesting trends with 36% of minority-owned small businesses having plans to grow staff compared to 27% of non-minority owned businesses. More than half (51%) of millennial owned businesses have plans to grow their staff. In comparison, 25% of baby boomer generation or older owners have plans to increase staff.
“Through this quarter, small business optimism has continued to grow reaching unprecedented levels. These high levels of confidence have prompted Main Street employers to increase hiring,” says Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Manufacturers lag in overall confidence: Small manufacturers have become more pessimistic about the national economy over the last two quarters with a decline of 11 points to 58% in Q4. This quarter, small manufacturers remain the least likely to plan to increase investments (19%) compared to 26% for all small businesses.
Manufacturing remains the least optimistic across industries when reporting expected revenue growth, although it is higher than last quarter (54% in Q4, was 49% Q3). The sector’s hiring plans (31%) are statistically unchanged since last quarter.
Technology use among small business owners: This quarter’s Index spotlights small business attitudes towards adopting technology for their businesses. Small businesses showed a strong affinity for technologies that help them complete daily tasks like accounting software. They also cited cost as the biggest barrier to adopting new technology.
“No matter what business you feel like you’re in, almost every company now is a “tech company”—or should be,” says Casey Stanley, Vice President of Ontario Systems and a U.S. Chamber Small Business Council Member. “Technology drives how companies operate today. Businesses that make steady and smart investments in technology are the ones who lead, are more profitable, and are more prepared to weather challenging business times.”
A majority of small business owners are concerned about cybersecurity threats (54%) and data privacy issues (50%). By sector, professional service firms are the most concerned about cybersecurity (62% vs. 44%). Professional service firms are also the most likely to agree that data privacy issues are a challenge at 59%.
Cost was identified by 44% of small businesses as, by far, the biggest factor keeping them back from adopting new technologies. Other significant concerns when deciding on new technologies are: the time it takes for IT training (25%) and lack of understanding of new technologies (19%).
2—Is Anyone Answering the Phone?
I don’t know about you, but I seem to be getting an increasing number of spam calls on both my business line and mobile phone. I know it’s not just me, since robocalls are the #1 complaint to the FCC, totaling more than 200K a year (about 60% of all complaints received) and there’s a lot of buzz around phone anxiety.
Their recent survey of American adults showed 3 in 4 Americans dislike answering their phones due to robocalls and spam calls, while 46% dislike answering the phone because they don’t enjoy phone conversations. In general, 65% of Americans say phone calls are disruptive
Phone calls are interrupting our lives many times a day
- 66% of American adults receive 1-5 phone calls a day
- 18% receive 6-10 calls a day
- 10% receive 11 or more calls a day
Americans are avoiding a significant portion of the phone calls they receive
- 52% answer less than half of the phone calls they receive
- Only 17% answer all the phone calls they receive and 31% answer more than half of phone calls
- Only 10% of Gen Zers answer all the phone calls they receive, compared to 19% of baby boomers
When Americans do pick up the phone, 27% say robocallers are most often on the other end
- 46% say family members are most often on the other end of their answered calls
- 15% say friends are most often on the other end of their answered calls
- Baby boomers (37%) are almost twice as likely to say robocallers are on the other end of their answered calls, compared to Gen Zers (20%)
Most Americans dislike answering the phone; Gen Z is more likely to dislike it
- 60% of American adults dislike answering the phone
- 68% of Gen Zers dislike answering the phone, compared to 57% of baby boomers
80% agree that the carriers aren’t doing enough to prevent robocalls
90% agree that the FCC is not doing enough to prevent robocalls
46% added their phone numbers to the FCC’s Do Not Call list but said it did not work
- 37% have not bothered to add their numbers to the Do Not Call list, while 17% added their numbers to the Do Not Call list and said it reduced the number of telemarketer calls they receive
- 70% of Gen Zers have not bothered to add their numbers to the Do Not Call list
- 25% of Gen Zers signed up for the Do Not Call list but say it does not work
- 6% of Gen Zers added their numbers to the Do Not Call list and said it reduced the number of telemarketer calls they receive
- 53% of millennials have not bothered to add their numbers to the Do Not Call list
- 35% of millennials signed up for the Do Not Call list but say it does not work
- 12% of millennials added their numbers to the Do Not Call list and say it reduced the number of telemarketer calls they receive
- 57% of baby boomers say they signed up for the FCC’s Do Not Call list but it does not work
- 22% have not bothered to add their numbers to the Do Not Call list
Americans are concerned about how companies are using their data
- 84% are concerned about companies collecting and selling their personal data without permission
- Gen Zers (73%) are 17% less concerned about this than baby boomers (90%) are
3—Making Job Titles Work for Your Employees
Employees want to work in a fair, honest workplace. To provide that experience, companies must have job titles that accurately describe workers’ roles, according to a survey from Clutch.
Of those surveyed, 31% work at companies that have employees with 1 to 5 different job titles, while 25% work at companies with more than 20 job titles. Businesses should plan to have more job titles as they become larger because their employees will likely perform more specialized roles.
- 64% say there is no or little difference in the daily tasks two people with the same job title at their company complete, demonstrating that the most important role of job titles is to summarize employees’ primary roles.
- 66% say it is somewhat or very important for two workers with the same job titles to have the same level of responsibilities. Experts believe that companies must represent the extent of each employee’s responsibility when crafting job titles, such as adding a “senior” designation to the title of an employee who manages other people’s work.
- 26% of men say they have more responsibility than all other co-workers with their same job title, while only 18% of women make the same claims. Experts say male employees are more likely to overestimate their responsibilities compared to others with the same job title.
- 23% do not believe their job title effectively represents their work, suggesting that companies should always determine a role’s daily activities and expectations before assigning it a job title.
- Just 14% of companies require a change in job title before granting pay raises, suggesting that companies should grant pay raises because of job performance, not just because of a change in job title.
There’s more information here.
4— Free Cyber Risk Assessments to Small and Midsize Businesses
Coalition, the leading cyber insurance company for SMBs recently launched a free, publicly available cybersecurity and risk assessment tool that assesses the expected probability and severity of a security incident for a company. Using Coalition’s proprietary underwriting platform and claims data, the Cyber Risk Assessment evaluates an organization’s cybersecurity standing relative to other Coalition policyholders, and provides clear cut steps for companies to reduce their risk. The assessment alerts companies about critical software vulnerabilities, exposed databases and infrastructure, malware infections, and lookalike domain registrations, and provides tailored security recommendations to prevent ransomware, data breaches, and social engineering attacks, among other features. Coalition policyholders taking these proactive steps experience less than half the frequency of cyber insurance claims as the overall market, per data from the NAIC.
Technological and cyber risks are now among the most pervasive risks facing businesses. Despite an estimated $130 billion spent annually on cybersecurity technology and defenses, cyber-related losses for businesses are growing exponentially. Not only are many SMBs unable to afford to defend themselves, they are also the least equipped to respond to an incident. By democratizing access to tools that prevent and mitigate loss for businesses, and helping them recover even when their security fails, Coalition is changing the way cyber risk is managed. This means supporting companies throughout the entire lifecycle of their risk exposure—before, during, and after an incident. With the new Cyber Risk Assessment tool, Coalition is expanding its reach to help all companies reduce their exposure and prevent cyber incidents.
“The mission of Coalition has always been to solve cyber risk,” says Joshua Motta, founder & CEO of Coalition. “This means not only helping companies prevent security incidents, but also helping them survive them. This free tool is the first of many we hope to make available to the broader business community.”
Unlike traditional security assessments that provide scores or grades with little or no specific direction on how to improve security, Coalition’s Cyber Risk Assessment includes a ranking that measures a company’s likelihood of a cyber incident based on its similarity to companies having previously filed a cyber insurance claim, along with actionable recommendations that are observed to have drastically lowered the probability of criminal targeting and cybersecurity failures.
To get a personalized Cyber Risk Assessment, a company simply needs to provide their business email, company name, and industry, and the assessment is generated automatically and sent to their business email. Companies are not required to register or create an account but are required to provide an email address with the domain name to be scanned as a security precaution to ensure that users can only scan domains with which they are associated. Once the necessary information is entered into the tool, a risk assessment is typically sent to the individual’s email in under one minute.
Learn more Coalition’s Cyber Risk Assessment.
5—Women and Tech Conferences
Ensono released a report earlier this year revealing women’s perspectives and experiences at the world’s largest tech conferences. It found one in four women attending a tech conference experienced sexual harassment and 41% of women who report such an experience are less likely to attend a future event. In spite of this, 49% of women are unclear about the existence of a code of conduct at these tech conferences.
Sending female employees to tech conferences is a powerful way to help further their professional development as well as ensure they are represented in the tech industry. However, HR departments have to ensure that the conference experience is respectful and reflective of company values. How can HR teams support female employees attending conferences?
Developing a code of conduct—or a set of rules and behavioral guidelines required of all employees—for conferences is an important and powerful way for businesses to make a difference on inclusivity. These documents set reasonable expectations for employees before they set foot in the convention hall and lay out clear steps for what to do if they witness sexual harassment, abuse or have other concerns.
To simplify the process of developing and implementing a code of conduct, Ensono has assembled an easy-to-follow guide that includes a templated code of conduct that can be distributed to employees, signed and kept on file.
6—A Snapshot of Gig Workers
72 million, (29% of American adults) work in the U.S. gig economy, earning approximately $1.2 trillion annually, according to a new study conducted by daVinci Payments. The study showed earning extra income is the primary reason people become gig workers, with the average gig income just under $17,000 per year.
The majority of gig workers are full-time workers holding traditional jobs for stability, insurance and higher income. Only 25% want to gig full time.
“As employers come to rely on gig workers more every year, they must learn how to attract the best gig talent,” says Rodney Mason, daVinci Payments’ Chief Revenue Officer. Adopting a mobile-first instant pay and reward structure, based on immediacy and ease of use, is clearly a competitive advantage to attract and retain the best and brightest.”
Gen Z and Millennials with advanced education have the highest propensity to gig. Findings show:
- 86% say they like gig work
- 80% intend to do the same or more gig work in the future
- 79% have at least some education beyond high school with 46% holding a college degree
- 65% have received same day pay, and 75% say it would make them more loyal to a gig job over one that doesn’t offer it
- Prepaid that can be spent anywhere is the incentive reward of choice
7—And the Winners Are
Several companies announced winners of their contests:
Mastercard “Grow Your Biz”
Deidre Mathis, founder of Wanderstay, a Houston-based hostel with modern private and shared accommodations, took home the gold at the Mastercard “Grow Your Biz” contest final event in association with Bank of America. Deidre started Wanderstay after traveling to over 43 countries on all seven continents and falling in love with the instant community and cultural diversity hostels provided. (Yes, she’s even been to Antarctica!)
Amazon U.S. Small Business Spotlight Awards
Amazon announced the U.S. winners of the Small Business Spotlight Awards, including: Small Business of the Year, Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year, and Small Business Owner Under 30 of the Year.
The Small Business Spotlight Awards, introduced in September, honor and celebrate inspiring, unique, and customer-obsessed small businesses selling in Amazon’s stores.
Award winners will receive a prize package including six months of Amazon Strategic Account Services, Sponsored Products advertising credits, and promotion on Amazon.com. Winners will also receive a trip to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters to meet with Amazon leaders and learn more about the tools and services Amazon provides to help sellers grow and scale their businesses. The winners include:
- Small Business of the Year: nutpods – Bellevue, WA-based small business nutpods, founded by Madeline Haydon, began selling plant-based creamer on Amazon in 2015. Today, nutpods has a team of 24 employees and has grown sales 5,500% in Amazon’s stores.
- Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year: 1818 Farms – Mooresville, AL-based small business 1818 Farms began as a family project for Natasha McCrary in 2012 and evolved quickly into a booming business. In 2017, Natasha listed her handcrafted bath and lifestyle products on Amazon Handmade and has now grown to 12 employees and doubled her Amazon sales year-over-year.
- Small Business Owner Under 30 of the Year: Habit Nest – Los Angeles, CA-based small business Habit Nest was launched by Michael Ahdoot and his cofounders in 2017. Inspired by the idea of helping others, Habit Nest creates journals that help people build better habits quickly and effectively. Since listing products in Amazon’s stores, Habit Nest has seen 300% year-over-year growth.
On average, U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses sell more than 4,000 items per minute in Amazon’s stores. Independent third-party sellers—primarily SMBs—made up 58% of all physical gross merchandise sold in Amazon’s stores in 2018, and their sales far exceeded $2 billion on Prime Day in July this year. These businesses have created an estimated 830,000 jobs in the U.S.
Customers can support small businesses selling in Amazon’s stores this holiday season by shopping gifts from the first-ever Small Business Gift Guide.
The 2019 Independent Small Business of the Year Award
While Art Lounge specializes in custom framing, it is also an asset to the local artist community. The Art Lounge gallery features the works of more than 20 local artists along with some regional works. In addition to providing a local place to display and sell their works, Art Lounge hosts monthly art walks to help promote local artists and features nearly two dozen vendors at a biannual outdoor artists’ market. To date, Art Lounge has helped artists sell more than $50,000 of their creations to art lovers in the region.
“As a small business owner, I’ve made it my mission over the last eight years, to give back to the community that has shown overwhelming support for both my framing shop and the artists who display their works in our gallery,” says Brandi Dice, owner of Art Lounge. “Being recognized for giving back to the community by the community is a great feeling. It means we’re doing something right—our vision of a fun, laid-back environment where all people feel welcome is resonating. With this grand prize, we can share our vision with even more people.”
Art Lounge will receive a prize package valued at more than $25,000, including:
- 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 Art Lounge
- Public relations and social media recognition
8—Green Business Bureau Launches New Online Applications
The Green Business Bureau, the trusted authority in green business and leader in green business certification, recently released two new online applications, GBB EcoPlanner™ and GBB EcoAssessment™, enabling businesses of any size to understand, prioritize, manage and certify green initiatives and sustainable business practices.
Green Business Bureau clients leverage the GBB certification program, sustainability framework and online tools to ensure their organizations not only make environmental performance and sustainability a priority, but also benefit from their green choices and actions. They have shown that green business practices improve operational efficiency, reduce operational costs, enhance their brand, retain employees, attract customers and drive sales.
GBB members get access to GBB EcoAssessment, a self-paced online assessment tool that credits businesses for the green efforts they’ve completed, and GBB EcoPlanner, an extensive library of over 400 greening initiatives with well documented EcoPlans™. Initiatives are organized across eight categories including business practices, office space, transportation and social responsibility.
“The Green Business Bureau mission is based on the concept that good business and green business go hand-in-hand.” says Tom Permatteo, CEO of GBB. “Unlike other niche sustainability assessments and certifications like LEED for buildings, we take a holistic approach and address all sustainable aspects of a business including business practices, products, services, facilities, operations, employee engagement and community involvement. No other company offers the breadth and depth of our offerings.”
GBB also offers a Green Business Certification Program that enables businesses to earn an official seal to validate and promote their green commitment and accomplishments in a credible way. The certification is entirely initiative-based where companies earn EcoPoints™ Bill Zujewski, CMO of GBB says, “We are empowering businesses to create a green culture and become more sustainable through step-by-step guides for implementing best practices.”
The benefits of using the GBB platform include:
- Green Team Empowerment
- Online tools for sustainability managers and committees to manage their green initiatives and track sustainability progress across distributed organizations and facilities.
- Employee Engagement
- A sustainability program that guides green teams and enables employees to choose the green initiatives that best suit their business.
- Sustainability Gamification with EcoPoints and Levels
- Over 400 greening initiatives across eight categories that earn GBB EcoPoints rated on environmental impact, implementation cost and effort.
- Success Celebration
- The internationally recognized and trusted GBB seal that reflects the success of a company’s sustainability program.