12 Things Small Business Owners
1—Are Your Online Store Listings Correct? It Could Mean Disaster if They’re Not
An analysis of five major retail chains that are closing a lot of their stores by the end of this month reveals they all had many inaccurate online store listings. (A store listing is any online directory, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. or social and review-oriented site, like Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. with information for a local business, such as name, address, phone number, hours, and more.) The study, by Uberall, Inc., the location marketing solution for businesses competing to attract and win local brick-and-mortar customers, of Toys “R” Us, Dressbarn, Family Dollar, Office Depot, and Payless has lessons for small businesses.
51% of failing store listings are inaccurate
Uberall discovered that the listings of these five retailers’ 46% featured missing information (e.g., no phone number, no hours, etc.), while 51% were incorrect (e.g., misspelled name, wrong address, etc.). Only 3% of the listings were completely accurate.
“Building high-quality online listings should be a top priority for retailers,” says Florian Huebner, Founder & Co-CEO of Uberall. “Brick-and-mortar customers and prospects rely on online information during their shopping journey. If they are doing a ‘Near Me’ search, for example, any missing or inaccurate information slows foot traffic and sales. It ultimately makes online discovery harder, hurting revenue. The closing locations we examined were plagued by low-quality listings, which likely contributed to their struggles.”
“It’s possible that these major retailers could have been struggling, in part, due to a lack of more sophisticated location marketing, which would have improved listing accuracy,” said Huebner. “Without standardized and correct information online, especially basic information such as hours and addresses, it makes it very difficult to increase foot traffic to a brick-and-mortar location. Also, an inaccurate listing doesn’t just hurt revenue by creating challenges for store discovery. If a shopper visits a store based on incorrect hours, it becomes a broader reputation issue that can kill customer loyalty across the board—not just for a single store.”
You should immediately check your online listings to make sure they’re up-to-date and accurate.
2—Increasing Exports from U.S. Small Businesses
Technology, says Google, has made it easier than ever for American small businesses to find new customers abroad. As an example, they cite Strider Bikes in South Dakota which has sold more than 2.5 million bikes to customers in 78 countries, and their international sales account for over half of the company’s business. Through products and tools like Google Ads, YouTube and Market Finder, small businesses like Strider Bikes are finding new markets and building relationships with customers around the world.
Yet, Google says, a majority of small businesses currently do not export their products, and many that do export continue to find it a difficult process. There is a strong international opportunity for American small businesses, and technology can play a critical role in helping them to overcome the challenges they face as they begin the export process.
To gain a better understanding, Google commissioned a study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Brunswick Research on small business exports. The report, Growing Small Business Exports: How Technology Strengthens American Trade show small business exports support more than six million jobs across all 50 states, and add over $540 billion annually to the American economy. If policymakers and the business community can help small companies overcome some of the challenges of exporting—like language barriers, customs issues and payment challenges—the report indicates nearly 900,000 additional jobs in the U.S. could be created.
Technology is key
According to the survey 70% of small businesses aren’t aware of digital tools, such as translation services, digital marketing and advertising and online payment platforms, that could help them go global.
- Develop a collaborative initiative between the federal government, state governments, the private sector and others to train and assist small businesses in using technology for exporting. This approach would modernize public and private export promotion tools while driving coordination between the numerous federal and state export agencies that have a stake in helping small businesses engage in trade.
- Encourage innovators and technology providers to build new digital tools—and broaden awareness of existing tools—that address barriers facing small business exporters. Today, only 20% of small businesses use digital tools to export. By increasing awareness of these resources, we can set small businesses up for success.
- Building on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement(USMCA), policymakers should prioritize additional market-opening trade agreements that benefit small business exporters, including through high-standard rules in areas such as digital trade and the removal of non-tariff barriers that disproportionately affect small businesses.
There’s more information here.
3—The State of Workplace Automation
It came as no surprise to me that Americans log longer hours at work than our global peers, making the opportunity for automation of mundane workplace tasks more needed than ever. Recently, monday.com released its report on The State of Automation in the Workplace to understand this key trend in the future of work and workers’ relationship with technology.
“The future of software lies in allowing teams to collaborate, facilitate transparency and automate mundane tasks so people can see the full picture of their workflow, ” says Matt Burns, head of Customer Success at monday.com.
Repealing the repetition
We’re wasting our true skills at work with tedious tasks—54% of the workforce believes they would save 5 hours+ from tools that automate tasks.
- 24% find tedious data input to be their “biggest time suck at work.”
- Over 32% would choose to eliminate repetitive administrative tasks if they could improve one thing about work
- Over 70% of those surveyed would love if automation were implemented for routine tasks like calendar invites and data entry
- 38% of workers feel they could save up to 5 hours each week if they had tools to assist in automated repetitive tasks
- 16% estimate they could save 10 or more hours per week with automation
Burnt (out) to a crisp
The mundanity takes a toll—57% of workers have started feeling burnt out.
- 40% work past their scheduled work hours a few days a week
- 22% have considered moving to another city because they feel drained from work
Everything is distracting
Technology, notifications and pings are one of the biggest culprits of work distractions. But so are our colleagues.
- 41% are distracted by emails, Slack and other notifications
- 20% are swamped with email overload
- 45% of workers find that working from home is the ideal work setting to stay focused and inspired
Make time to create
With more focus on productivity and output, workers are feeling a lapse in creativity and opportunity to show meaningful work.
- 30% feel less creative than they used to be
- 28% want to improve time for creativity and focus at work
- An overwhelming 63%+ of respondents feel they are missing an opportunity to show their best work.
4—How to Successfully Work Remotely
Guest post by Jono Bacon, a leading community and management strategy consultant, speaker, and author. He is the founder of Jono Bacon Consulting, which provides community and management strategy, execution, and coaching. He’s the author of People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brand, and Team. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
Remote working seems to be all the buzz. Apparently, 70% of professionals already work from home at least once a week. It seems to make sense: technology, connectivity, and culture seem to be setting the world up more and more for remote working. Oh, and home-brewed coffee is better than ever too.
Here’s the stark truth: remote working is not a panacea. Sure, it seems like hanging around at home in your jimjams, listening to your antisocial music, and sipping on buckets of coffee is perfect, but it isn’t for everyone.
Some people need the structure of an office. Some people need the social element of an office. Some people need to get out the house. Some people lack the discipline to stay focused at home.
Remote working is like a muscle: it can bring enormous strength and capabilities IF you train and maintain it. If you don’t, your results are going to vary.
I have worked from home for the vast majority of my career. I love it. I am more productive, happier, and empowered when I work from home. I don’t dislike working in an office, and I enjoy the social element, but I am more in my “zone” when I work from home. I also love blisteringly heavy metal, which can pose a problem when the office doesn’t want to listen to After The Burial.
I have learned how I need to manage remote work, using the right balance of work routine, travel, and other elements, and here are five of my recommendations:
- You need discipline and routine (and to understand your “waves”)
Remote work really is a muscle that needs to be trained. Just like building actual muscle, there needs to be a clear routine and a healthy dollop of discipline mixed in.
Always get dressed (no jimjams). Set your start and end time for your day (I work 9am – 6pm most days). Choose your lunch break (mine is 12pm). Choose your morning ritual (mine is email followed by a full review of my client needs). Decide where your main workplace will be (mine is my home office). Decide when you will exercise each day (I do it at 5pm most days).
Design a realistic routine and do it for 66 days. It takes this long to build a habit. Try not to deviate from the routine. The more you stick the routine, the less work it will seem further down the line. By the end of the 66 days it will feel natural and you won’t have to think about it.
Here’s the deal though, we don’t live in a vacuum. We all have waves.
A wave is when you need a change of routine to mix things up. For example, in summertime I generally want more sunlight. I will often work outside in the garden. Near the holidays I get more distracted, so I need more structure in my day. Sometimes I just need more human contact, so I will work from coffee shops for a few weeks. Sometimes I just fancy working in the kitchen or on the couch. You need to learn your waves and listen to your body. Build your habit first, and then modify it as you learn your waves.
- Set expectations with your management and colleagues
Not everyone knows how to do remote working, and if your company is less familiar with remote working, you especially need to set expectations with colleagues.
This can be pretty simple: when you have designed your routine, communicate it clearly to your management and team. Let them know how they can get hold of you, how to contact you in an emergency, and how you will be collaborating while at home.
The communication component here is critical. There are some remote workers who are scared to leave their computer for fear someone will send them a message while they are away (and they are worried people may think they are just eating Cheetos and watching Netflix).
You need time away. You need to eat lunch without one eye on your computer. You are not a 911 emergency responder. Set expectations that sometimes you may not be immediately responsive, but you will get back to them as soon as possible.
Similarly, set expectations on your general availability. For example, I set expectations with clients that I generally work from 9am – 6pm every day. Sure, if a client needs something urgently, I am more than happy to respond outside of those hours, but as a general rule I am usually working between those hours. This is necessary for a balanced life.
- Distractions are your enemy and they need managing
We all get distracted. It is human nature. It could be your young kid getting home and wanting to play Rescue Bots. It could be checking Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to ensure you don’t miss any unwanted political opinions or photos of people’s lunches. It could be that there is something else going on your life that is taking your attention (such as an upcoming wedding, event, or big trip).
You need to learn what distracts you and how to manage it. For example, I know I get distracted by my email and Twitter. I check it religiously and every check gets me out of the zone of what I am working on. I also get distracted by grabbing coffee and water, which then may turn into a snack and a YouTube video.
The digital distractions have a simple solution: lock them out. Close down the tabs until you complete what you are doing. I do this all the time with big chunks of work: I lock out the distractions until I am done. It requires discipline, but all of this does.
The human elements are tougher. If you have a family you need to make it clear that when you are work, you need to be generally left alone. This is why a home office is so important: you need to set boundaries that mum or dad is working. Come in if there is emergency, but otherwise they need to be left alone.
There are all kinds of opportunities for locking these distractions out. Put your phone on silent. Set yourself as away. Move to a different room (or building) where the distraction isn’t there. Again, be honest in what distracts you and manage it. If you don’t, you will always be at their mercy.
- Relationships need in-person attention
Some roles are more attuned to remote working than others. For example, I have seen great work from engineering, quality assurance, support, security, and other teams (typically more focused on digital collaboration). Other teams such as design or marketing often struggle more in remote environments (as they are often more tactile).
With any team though, having strong relationship is critical, and in-person discussion, collaboration, and socializing is essential to this. So many of our senses (such as body language) are removed in a digital environment, and these play a key role in how we build trust and relationships.
This is especially important if (a) you are new to a company and need to build these relationships, (b) are new to a role and need to build relationships with your team, or (c) are in a leadership position where building buy-in and engagement is a key part of your job.
The solution? A sensible mix of remote and in-person time. If your company is nearby, work from home part of the week and at the office part of the week. If your company is further away, schedule regular trips to the office (and set expectations with your management that you need this). For example, when I worked at XPRIZE I flew to LA every few weeks for a few days. When I worked at Canonical (who were based in London), we had sprints every three months.
- Stay focused, but cut yourself some slack
The crux of everything in this article is about building a capability and developing a remote working muscle. This is as simple as building a routine, sticking to it, and having an honest view of your “waves” and distractions and how to manage them.
I see the world in a fairly specific way: everything we do has the opportunity to be refined and improved. For example, I have been public speaking now for over 15 years, but I am always discovering new ways to improve, and new mistakes to fix.
There is a thrill in the discovery of new ways to get better, and to see every stumbling block and mistake as an “aha!” moment to kick ass in new and different ways. It is no different with remote working: look for patterns that help to unlock ways in which you can make your remote working time more efficient, more comfortable, and more fun.
…but don’t go crazy over it. There are some people who obsesses every minute of their day about how to get better. They beat themselves up constantly for “not doing well enough”, “not getting more done”, and not meeting their internal unrealistic view of perfection.
We are humans. We are animals, and we are not robots. Always strive to improve but be realistic that not everything will be perfect. You are going to have some off-days or off-weeks. You are going to struggle at times with stress and burnout. You are going to handle a situation poorly remotely that would have been easier in the office. Learn from these moments but don’t obsess over them. Life is too damn short.
5—Global Sales Soar
The global e-commerce industry is growing according to a new study—the Global Seller Index Q 3, a bi-annual global report from cross-border payment leader Payoneer. And the U.S. holds the #2 spot of top 10 countries by international sales volume, with year over year growth spiking up to 49%, much higher than #1 country China’s 33% increase.
Insight from the report
- APAC is home to five of the top 10 countries with the largest sales volumes (China, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan and India)
- South Korea, #3 on the list, recorded 19% growth in sales and a 26% increase in the number of cross-border sellers since Q3 2018
- Vietnamese e-sellers expanded into larger global marketplaces in droves during Q3, leading to a massive 44% spike in YoY sales volume
- Holiday sales across the globe are expected to grow by 35%, and that number is much higher in the UK, expecting to double its sales from last year, and India’s holiday sales are expected to grow by 60%.
Read more about it in their blog post.
6—Find a PR Pro
Need a pubic relations expert? Check out the new Pro-only Public Relations category on Fiverr. Fiverr explains on their blog: “As a Pro-only category, businesses now have access to vetted experienced professional freelancers that offer high-quality services to meet their communications needs, including strategy and planning, press release pitching, crisis communications planning, and many more. Businesses can now access high-quality Public Relations professionals from across the globe save time, allowing them to focus on other aspects of their business.”
7—Making Shipping Easier
During the busy holiday shopping season, shipping can be a common pain point for small business owners. According to a recent survey commissioned by Scotch™ Brand, 54% of small business owners spend more time on shipping-related tasks during the holidays than the rest of the year.
Scotch™ Brand and TaskRabbit teamed up to award more than 250 small businesses across the country shipping help through the Scotch™ Brand ‘Getting Ship Done’ Contest. Though the contest is now closed (winners will receive Scotch™ Flex & Seal Shipping Rolls and a TaskRabbit code to redeem for Tasker support with packing and shipping starting during the busiest shipping week of the year, December 16).
The Flex & Seal Shipping Roll was just named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019.
They also conducted a survey of small business owners and discovered:
- 86% of small business owners who ship to customers have felt overwhelmed by administrative tasks like shipping; 41% feel overwhelmed frequently.
- 70% admit that shipping-related tasks take time away from improving their businesses.
- Shipping is impacting small business owners’ personal holidays—63% have missed out on holiday experiences because they were working to get shipments out on time.
- 79% estimate they’d need an average of 10 extra employees to manage their holiday shipping.
8—Controlling Cash Flow
Small business owners are always looking for solutions to help them control their cash flow. Check out Bento For Business, a leader in the B2B Payments market. Bento for Business gives SMBs control and clear visibility into all your expenses using three different methods.
- A Bento Corporate Debit Card: Lets you build your expense policy into corporate cards with detailed spending controls for each employee.
- Bento Virtual Cards: Generate and assign virtual cards in your account. Instant and secure access.
- Bento Pay: Send and track digital payments to any business using just their approved email address.
Bento for Business says it focuses on helping “traditional American SMBs in such sectors as construction, fleet management, and nonprofits.” The company says its card controls are the most comprehensive in the industry and using Bento Pay you can pay another business, using their email address. Plus, it provides 24/7 American-based live customer support.
Wouldn’t it help you to know which marketing campaigns and search keywords are driving valuable phone calls? CallRail’s easy-to-use cloud platform can help by providing call tracking and analytics services for small businesses and the marketing agencies that serve them.
You can use the call analytics to optimize your advertising campaigns, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction.
CallRail was recently named as one of the top 10 fastest-growing companies in Atlanta by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
10—Retirement Savings Selector Tool
Need help figuring out the right retirement savings option for your business and your employees? Check out the newly launched Retirement Savings Selector Tool for Small Businesses from Millennium Trust Company, LLC (“Millennium Trust”), a leading provider of retirement and institutional services.
The Retirement Savings Selector Tool for Small Businesses was created in conjunction with Millennium Trust’s Workplace Savings Solutions to help small businesses identify a retirement savings option that may be a fit for their business by answering a few questions. The results of the tool are determined based on factors such as how many employees the business has and how much the employer would like to contribute to the account.
“The Retirement Savings Selector Tool for Small Businesses is a completely agnostic resource,” says vice president of Workplace Savings Solutions, Kevin Boyles. “We want to help businesses understand their workplace savings options, even if that leads them to something, we are unable to directly support.”
According to the 2018 Millennium Trust Small Business Retirement Survey, 45% of small businesses surveyed did not research a retirement savings option, and those who did research ultimately chose not to offer anything. This may often be due to perceived misconceptions related to size, cost and complexity, which are often associated with the assumption that a 401(k) plan is the only option.
“Many employers are aware that offering a retirement savings option would be beneficial to their employees,” adds Boyles. “But, despite this interest in offering a retirement savings benefit, there is a significant lack of education surrounding alternative options, like SIMPLE, SEP and Payroll Deducted IRAs. This is why we developed the Retirement Savings Selector Tool to serve as an easy start to understanding what may be right for a small business and its employees.”
The Retirement Savings Selector Tool for Small Businesses generates which retirement savings option may be the best fit and lays out comparisons of each plan for small businesses to explore further.
11—Lack of Office Resources Costs Businesses
According to Office Resource Woes, a report from ZenBusiness:
- Employees lose an average of ~40 minutes a day to outdated technology, costing employers roughly $3,930 per year
- 1 in 3 employees say they’ve asked their employers for updated or additional resources monthly, while 18% report asking on a weekly basis
- 93% of employees say working with outdated technology impacts their job satisfaction
- Nearly 1 in 3 employees say they’d likely look for a new job due to their workplace’s outdated technology.
12—Power of Color
Review42 has put together a really useful report on the psychological power of color and how it can affect your branding and marketing
Business stock photo by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock