13 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—Simple Way to Make Higher Profits
Are you using online collaboration tools in your small business? You may think it’s not all that important, but according to SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, small businesses that use online collaboration tools see 26% faster growth and 21% higher profits.
Sadly, only 12% of businesses with less than 100 employees currently use online collaboration tools, though 17% plan to use these tools in the next 12 months.
The most popular online collaboration tools among small business owners include:
- 64% – file sharing
- 64% – instant messaging
- 50% – audio conferencing
- 44% – web conferencing
- 39% – video conferencing
- 35% – video chat
- 24% – stream-based messaging
Most (70%) of small business owners think online collaboration tools improve productivity. And using these tools save small businesses an average of $1,700 per month, and 43 minutes per employee, per day.
These tools can reduce costs for small businesses, saving them:
- 40% on local calls
- Up to 90% on international calls
- Up to 90% on initial costs for a new business
- 30% in conferencing expenses
Despite these savings in time and money, small business owners are concerned about:
- 41% – cost/funding
- 36% – security/privacy concerns
- 33% – interaction with existing infrastructure
- 30% – user quality/experience
- 27% – end users require training
For more information, check out the infographic below.
2—Women-Owned Business Grow Globally
In the last year, 163 million women started businesses—in 74 economies worldwide—according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Women’s Report released today with sponsors Babson College, Smith College, Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Universidad Del Desarrollo, and Universiti Tun Abdul Razak.
We will cover the report more in-depth next month, but here are a few key highlights:
- 111 million women already own their own business
- Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) among women increased by 10% since the last report in 2015
- The gender gap (ratio of women to men participating in entrepreneurship) also narrowed by 5%
- GEM found that women entrepreneurs have a 5% greater likelihood of innovativeness compared to men
- The highest level of innovation occurs in North America, where 38% of women report having innovative products and services.
- North America shows the highest education rates among women entrepreneurs, with 84% having earned a post-secondary or higher education.
- Women participate in entrepreneurship at equal or higher levels than men in Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico, and Brazil.
3—A Tale of the Modern Workplace
A book collaboration of “epic scale” just launched with 14 award-winning international writers and creative talents contributing to Xerox’s Project: SET THE PAGE FREE. The book will feature chapters by each of the contributors (including a poem and a song), that tell the story of the modern workplace.
Right now on the website SetThePageFree.com, you’ll find short video documentaries, exclusive photos, book excerpts and podcasts for the first wave of contributors including Lee Child, Joshua Ferris, Roxane Gay and Gary Shteyngart. Additional content from Jonathan Ames, Billy Collins, Jonathan Coulton, Sloane Crosley, Jonathan Safran Foer, Chip Kidd, Valeria Luiselli, Alain Mabanckou, Aimee Mann and Joyce Carol Oates will be launched in the coming weeks.
To help the collaboration, the contributors are using Xerox technology, software and apps, whether it’s for translating languages using the Xerox Easy Translator Service app, voice recognition technology or scanning and sharing their work in the cloud.
The book will be released internationally as a free eBook in English in late October. On September 19, the French and Latin American Spanish versions of the site will be launched, as part of a global program rollout to 22 countries.
For updates on the project including author videos, podcast interviews, contributor excerpts and the latest information about the book release, visit SetThePageFree.com and follow #SETTHEPAGEFREE.
4—Get Ready for The New SMB Software Market
Guest post by Matthew Baker, VP of Strategy, FreshBooks
If you want to create a successful software company, you have to pick a market. But which market is your best bet?
There are three large software markets:
- Small and medium business (SMB), and
Some companies manage to tackle multiple markets over time but most successful software start-ups begin life with one market in mind.
The Enterprise Market: In a typical “bigger is better” manner, the enterprise market is viewed as the most attractive. This makes sense: The unit economics are the strongest of any market because of high contract values and low churn rates (the rate at which customers cancel services or subscriptions). Plus, the value per customer affords aggressive expansion through direct sales teams and account managers.
Put simply: If you’re selling an enterprise solution to big businesses, you have fewer customers and charge significantly more than consumer products. Sales are usually assisted and the life cycle is a long one. Because no business wants to constantly change its software solutions on a whim, as long as your core product is strong, you’ll see little abandonment. It’s a well-oiled business model supported by venture capitalists.
For instance, enterprise data platform Splunk acquired 600 new customers in 2016 to finish the year with over $600 million in revenue across 11,000 customers. That’s over $50,000 in annual contract value per customer—a true testament to the profitability of enterprise customers.
The Consumer Market: At the other end of the spectrum, the consumer market is the largest. There are 150 million adults in the United States alone. Unlike the enterprise solution, the consumer business model is based on scale. Given the volume of users and the inherent fickleness of consumer trends, mass advertising is coupled with low contract values (or even free usage supported by advertising revenue). The playbook is no-to-low touch distribution.
For example, Netflix ended 2016 with nearly 48 million paid memberships in the US. The net increase of 1.4 million subscribers in the fourth quarter was the result of 1.9 million new subscribers and 0.5 million cancellations. Despite losing more than 150,000 customers every month due to cancellations, the Netflix stock price and market capitalization are higher than ever.
The SMB Market: The remaining market is SMB. It suffers the middle child syndrome in which the older sibling (enterprise) has higher value customers and the younger sibling (consumer) is allowed to break the rules and worry about revenue later. SMB is roughly one-third the size of the consumer market by user count—55 million Americans are engaged in full-time or part-time independent work.
The challenge is that SMB s are less homogenous than the consumer market, which makes it difficult to reach and serve the majority of customers with a single software product.
Luckily for SMB, that won’t always be the case. Now is the time to get ready for a new SMB software market that will experience more growth than enterprise or consumer. I believe there are three trends that will significantly raise the perception of the SMB market:
- Customer expectations will push many enterprise and SMB direct sales programs to self-serve distribution
I’ve heard from several enterprise software purchasers that distribution is moving to self-serve. As much as one-third of the software purchases by dollar amount are no longer executed through a salesperson and a paper contract. Consider Slack and Expensify.
Why is this the case? The most common reason is that professionals experience the benefits of simple and easy self-serve as a consumer and then expect the same option as a corporate buyer. Software companies that have focused on the SMB market are positioned to excel in a self-serve environment.
- The SMB software market will be re-branded
“SMB” is becoming a name of the past. Think about the media coverage surrounding small businesses. Some call it the Freelancer’s Economy, the Self-Employed Market, or the Independent Workforce. The New York Times renamed the Small Business section the Entrepreneurship section.
More and more professionals are seizing opportunities to leave traditional corporate jobs and work for themselves. Whether it’s freelancing, starting an online shop, or building a local agency or consultancy, the benefits of self-employment are numerous: Setting your own hours, pursuing a passion, having flexibility for family time, and earning an uncapped income.
The renaissance around working for yourself will re-brand the market and this will shine a new light on the potential for software companies to focus on small businesses.
- Learning machines will personalize software experiences across many professions
The knock against SMB has been that the diversity within the market limits growth. For instance, you can’t provide the same solution to a restaurant owner, a digital marketer, and a carpenter. That won’t change.
However, with learning machines the software can personalize more deeply than ever before. Through intelligent onboarding, inputs such as profession, geography, and business maturity can help to personalize the user experience.
The Opportunity: You can still be an early bird with SMBs
If you want to succeed in the software market, consider focusing on SMBs. This market is right on the cusp of changes as our markets and products still grapple with the changing realities of the “new economy”.
While setting your sights on enterprise customers might be the more “established” path, mastery of the SMB market will provide the distribution expertise needed to succeed with self-serve and the data science required for learning machines.
Lastly, if you’re leaning toward the consumer market, think of the benefits your software can provide to other entrepreneurs. My hunch is the new SMB market will prove to be just as attractive as its siblings.
5—5 Signs It’s Time for a Rebrand
Guest post by Gabriel Shaoolian, founder, Blue Fountain Media
Your brand represents your business’ identity, encompassing your values and ideals. Everything from your product’s design to your logo and website is a reflection of your brand’s identity. The distinctive image you’ve created speaks volume about your company and is easily recognizable to your customers.
However, at some point in your company’s existence, your brand will stop being relevant. It happens. Maybe you’ve been around longer than you can remember and your business was unable to keep pace with the market changes. Perhaps you aren’t able to meet your customer’s standards anymore.
So, what can you do when your business starts losing its appeal? A rebrand might be an excellent solution.
Yes, we know: rebranding is a scary proposition. That’s why many businesses choose to ignore it and think that if they rework their marketing strategy, they’ll be able to gain their customers back. Sometimes it works; but, more often than not, it’s just a waste of resources.
Still not convinced that it’s time for a rebrand? Here are five telling signs.
- You’re trying to appeal to a different demographic: Times change, markets change, and along with them, people do, too. Growing your business means more than just expanding your customer base. Sometimes, it requires you to tap into new demographics and reach out to people who don’t utilize your business.
Take Best Western for example, the subsidiary (or daughter company) of Holiday Inn, markets towards leisure and business travelers. But, with the rise of millennials in the business world, Best Western looked for a new way to target the millennial business traveler.
This new marketing strategy led to the development of the Vib Hotel, or Vibrant Hotel. The hotel features smaller rooms with accessible Wi-Fi, a workout area, grab-and-go coffee station, and offers more social spots within. In addition, the Vib Hotel also allows guests to check in through their phonez, which answers the millennial need of having things done in a faster and more efficient way.
- Your brand’s mission or values have changed: Businesses are like living organisms: they evolve and change over time. Your brand image might have been relevant a few years back, but it may not reflect your mission and values anymore. And, that’s a good sign. It means your brand is not stuck in the past; instead, it’s growing along with the market.
Outgrowing your original mission is normal and most of all, expected. Customers are more demanding than ever. Your business must keep up with their needs if you want to remain relevant. Rebranding may just be what you need to show you’re committed to helping your audience solve their problems or fulfill their needs.
- You want to shake off your current image: Imagine that you’ve worked hard to create a brand that is synonymous with luxury and refinement. But, through a bizarre course of events, people developed a negative association with your products. As a result, your sales and reputation are suffering.
That’s what happened to Burberry, the highly popular British fashion house. Back in the 2000s, Burberry became a distinctive mark of thugs and gangs in England. The association between troublemakers and Burberry was so powerful that numerous pubs and venues banned anyone that wore the famous checker print. It goes without saying that this odd situation affected Burberry tremendously. The company had to shake off their current image and rebrand itself if it wanted to survive.
Burberry created this new image of a high-end luxury clothing line with a sexy spin. The company focused on showcasing the incredible artistry and fashion behind their clothes. Keeping the same price range, Burberry did not touch the history and tradition behind its brand. Partnering with some of England’s most prominent social figures also helped them appeal to the right crowd, and regain their popularity.
- Your online presence doesn’t reflect your business anymore: In today’s highly connected world, ensuring that your online presence is accurate is vital to the success of your business. Just think about it: what’s the first thing people do when they learn about your business? They research your brand’s name on Google or social media networks, like Facebook or Twitter. If they can’t find any relevant or official information about your business, they’ll move along to the next company that can meet their needs.
Your online presence, whether it be your e-commerce site or social media account, should be an expression of the values and ideas that drive you forward. Over time, however, your company’s focus may shift a little to adapt to the market. It’s very likely you’ll reach a point where your e-commerce design will no longer reflect who you are, anymore.
Even the slightest inaccuracy between your brand’s image and online presence can be confusing to your customers. When that happens, it’s vital to rebuild your website so that it showcases the new you. And, here’s why: companies that generate 40% or more of their leads online are shown to be the most profitable and to experience faster growth than others. This shows just how important your online presence is and why you should put it at the center of your marketing strategy.
- You’re not on the same page with the evolving market: Your top-notch services and outstanding products aren’t a guarantee that your business will remain relevant in the context of an ever-growing and ever-changing market. Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and, with it your customers’ habits, behaviors, and expectations change as well. Sometimes, a rebrand is the only way to keep your business competitive.
Here’s an excellent example: in the late 00s, Apple released a marketing campaign that made history. We’re sure you remember the ads where a young, cool and casual young man was depicted as the Mac computer while an older, out-of-touch man was a representation of the PC.
The ads made it clear Microsoft was unable to keep up with the times. Unlike Apple, which was hip and fresh, Microsoft was outdated, difficult to use, and full of bugs. That’s when Microsoft realized it was time to revamp their brand image. So, they responded to the Apple ads by creating a campaign that showcased the company’s strongest traits. In a 2008 ad, called “Not Alone,” Microsoft showed there are many PC guys out there, and they came from a wide variety of backgrounds, demographics, and locations worldwide.
The “war” ended in 2009, and Microsoft managed to rebrand itself from a tech company that was considered by many to be behind the curve to one of the most powerful brands today.
Conclusion: Whether your message is outdated or your image is not in line with the market’s needs anymore, a rebrand may be the perfect solution to keep your business competitive and relevant. But, before you embark on such a complicated mission, ensure that the reasons behind your rebrand are valid. If you’re just tweaking your brand’s image out of curiosity, without a clear vision and strategy, you may do more harm than good.
If you want to learn more about how to tackle a rebranding strategy, visit Blue Fountain Media online.
6—What are Your Employees Buzzing About?
According to the latest Office Pulse Survey from Captivate, your staff was talking—a lot—about Game of Thrones.
- While 67% don’t watch TV or a sporting event during their workday, 21% of men and 14% of women admit to regularly or sometimes watching TV during work hours.
- Game of Thrones is the #1 TV show talked about in the office.
- While some watch a show live to avoid spoilers, 64% aren’t worried about being spoiled. However, 29% have told a coworker to stop talking in order to avoid having a TV show or sporting event spoiled at the office. Plus, 41% of them “Wouldn’t trust anyone in the office with a secret,” which I assume includes TV show spoilers.
- And while 73% would not ever pretend to be interested in a TV show or sporting event to impress a coworker or client, 36% of men and 22% of women would.
Now that Game of Thrones’ season is over, office chatter has turned to Fantasy Football.
- Although 78% of the panelists surveyed by Captivate, don’t plan to participate in a Fantasy Football league this year, most of those who do plan to play are millennials.
- Of those who are playing Fantasy Football, 54% will take part in an office league with their coworkers. Somewhat surprisingly, 61% of women plan to participate in a league, compared to only 49% of men.
7—Small Biz Award Now Provides $50K in Cash and Prizes
Are you an independent business, or do you know one? Then enter the 7th-annual Indie Award, which offers a chance for independent businesses to not only reinvest in themselves through a $5,000 cash prize and a branding, advertising and public relations makeover, but to also pay it forward through a $1,000 cash donation to their favorite small business group. Independent We Stand invites both the public and business owners to help promote the importance and strong economic benefits of “buying local.” The winner will receive a prize package valued at $50,000.
Getting involved is as easy as nominating locally owned small businesses that go above and beyond to support their communities through charitable donations and community outreach. The web-driven small business of the year contest also gives supporters the opportunity to acknowledge businesses that exceed customer service expectations and also grow their local economies. This year, the winner will have the chance to give back through the award.
Anyone can nominate a small business online starting September 12. Voting begins as soon as a business is nominated. Votes can only be submitted once every 24 hours. 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 November 12.
In addition to $5,000 in cash and $1,000 for the winner’s favorite small business group, the winner of the 2017 Indie Award will also receive:
- Branding, advertising and public relations makeover from independent advertising agency — The Meridian Group
- 12-month subscription and three months of free managed marketing services from SnapRetail (valued at $1,696)
- $1,000 STIHL equipment certificate
- Three-day/two-night retreat and branding workshop in Virginia Beach, Va. (valued at $1,000)
- Plaque to display at winner’s business
- Public relations and social media recognition
- Quarterfinalists receive an Independent We Stand Premium Membership, for life
Quarterfinalist voting begins November 20 and ends on December 10. The announcement of The Indie winner will be made on December 13, 2017.
To nominate and vote for your favorite small business, visit www.IndieBizAward.com.
The presenting sponsor is STIHL Inc., America’s number-one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment and the founding sponsor of Independent We Stand. Supporting sponsors include: Do it Best Corp., National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), PPG Pittsburgh Paints and SnapRetail.
8—Contract Management Best Practices
In The 2017 State of Contract Management, SpringCM survey of more than 1,400 respondents on their contract management and workflow habits, more than 85% attach contracts to emails, allowing sensitive information to easily be hacked or at the very least, sent to irrelevant parties.
Interestingly, 46% of those surveyed rank workflow as the most difficult area of contract management.
Other findings include:
- Of the organizations using a contract management platform, 22% say mitigating risk was their priority
- Human error impacts 92% of the contract management process
- More organizations are leveraging tech solutions in the contract process, with 25% incorporating IT teams.
The full report reveals insights into the adoption of technology within the contract management process as well as the results of implementing a contract management system.
9—Digitally Transforming HR
According to The Washington Post, Human Resource professionals must review 86 candidates in order to identify the most qualified person to hire for an available position. While your small business likely doesn’t see this many job candidates, entrepreneurs would like to simplify the hiring process.
Check out online meeting software, such as Blizz by TeamViewer, which plays a critical role enabling you to effectively review and interview prospective candidates who may reside in another state or country. The opportunity to connect instantly, share screens and video, as well as feel confident that the connection is secure and private provides an additional resource for those making hiring decisions.
Job interviews by video conference have many advantages:
- The job search can include candidates from around the world.
- An initial online meeting provides you the opportunity to get a first impression of the potential new employee no matter their location. And the meeting can be initiated instantlyand does not require costly travel.
- Multiple parties can join at once, allowing for several people to conduct the interview simultaneously.
- It provides better insight on the candidate’s abilitiesby enabling both the interviewer and the interviewee to interact more personally than a traditional phone conversation.
- The meeting can be recordeddue to Blizz’s screen recording option.
- As a Blizz meeting is end-to-end encrypted,all involved parties can be sure that the exchange will remain private.
Blizz offers three packages, each with different functions, including a free option.
10—Help for Small Businesses Impacted by Hurricane Harvey
First Data just announced it was sending thousands of its Clover® Go mobile credit and debit card readers to the Houston area to distribute free to business owners who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The initiative, designed to help the local economy get back on its feet, includes free device installation and discounted pricing, in addition to the free Clover Go mobile readers.
There are a number of ways that Houston-area business owners can get a free Clover Go. First Data representatives are staffing a command center at the JW Marriott located at 5150 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77056. If you can’t pick up a free device there, visit www.FirstData.com/HurricaneHarveyRelief or call 1-844-882-2438.
If you’re not a current First Data client, the company is offering free Clover Go devices with no setup fees and no minimum monthly fee for the next six months. Current First Data clients whose payment hardware was destroyed in the storm can receive new Clover Go devices, at no charge.
Clover Go is an EMV-enabled, mobile card reader that plugs into an iOS or Android tablet or smartphone and works with a Wi-Fi or cellular connection, allowing business owners to accept secure payments anywhere. The rechargeable battery-powered Clover Go, which fits inside the palm of a hand, allows credit or debit card payments through traditional swipes, dips, and touch transactions such as Apple Pay.
11—What Would You Give Up for a Short Commute?
According to a new survey from Funding Circle, 71% of Main Street small business owners commute to work every day. And, 20% of these commuters spend more than an hour on the road every day. That’s the equivalent of 32 8-hour workdays a year!
So, what would SMBs give up for a shorter commute?
- 45%would give up Netflix for a month
- 28%would give up coffee, wine or chocolate for a month
- 22%would give up two vacation days
- 17% would give up their smartphones for a week
You can learn more about smart ways to make the most of your commuting time here.
12—Chip Payments at the Fuel Pump
The U.S. Payments Forum and Conexxus are co-hosting a webinar, “Accepting EMV Chip Payments at the Fuel Pump,” on September 20th at 2pm ET/11am PT.
Speakers include noted petroleum industry experts from CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Conexxus, Verifone, and U.S. Payments Forum. The webinar will help smaller petroleum merchants fully understand challenges associated with implementing EMV at the pump, and provide guidance, education and resources for a smooth transition ahead of the payment networks’ October 2020 fraud liability shifts.
You can register here.
13—Easier Communication on LinkedIn
LinkedIn recently launched Active Status on LinkedIn Messaging, a new feature that lets users see when their connections are online and available to chat with a green dot appearing on their profile.
The tool makes it easier for you to have timely, productive conversations with your network from anywhere on LinkedIn. Users can also choose to adjust their settings to manage who has visibility into their availability.
You can learn more here.