10 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1) 7 Top Videoconferencing Taboos
A new study by join.me, the popular online meeting tool, highlights the behaviors (some a bit odd) of people on videoconferences. The research shows:
- 21 percent of Americans attend a videoconference wearing a professional top and pajama pants. And globally, 17 percent of people report seeing someone dressed inappropriately while on a video call.
- More than 6 percent of those on videoconferences have actually seen someone participating in the conference from their beds!
- 18 percent have seen some conference participants using the video camera as a mirror to fix their hair, makeup and appearance. Fittingly, 15 percent of Americans admit to applying makeup before joining a videoconference, while only 13 percent of Germans and 12 percent of Australians admit to doing that.
- 16 percent have witnessed an unexpected appearance of a pet on the conference
- This is too stunningly stupid and makes you wonder if people actually understand they’re being shown, but 10 percent of those taking part in videoconferences have seen someone pick their nose onscreen and 6 percent have seen someone participating in the videoconference from their bathrooms.
2) 3 Productivity Musts for Coworking
Coworking spaces are oh so hot right now—but are they for you? Jonathan Tzou who oversees growth and product at Complete offers his sage insight on the world of coworking.
In a world where software startups seem to burgeon from every nook and cranny, coworking spaces have exploded in popularity (and number). These days anyone armed with just a computer, Internet connection, and suitable work area can change the world.
But before running off to start the next Slack or ProductHunt at your local hub, here are a few guidelines for making the most of your next coworking experience:
Actively engage with others
Most enter coworking spaces with the intent of getting things done and saving some money. They say that shipping product and doing it leanly is critical in the early stages, right? Absolutely.
But it is important not to forget one of the greatest benefits of joining a coworking space: immediate access to a wide array of knowledge and experience. Taking full advantage of this doesn’t mean just casually introducing yourself and letting things simmer; it means taking the time and energy to build truly productive, meaningful relationships. But how?
Building deeper relationships (and this applies to networking in general) generally starts with one simple action—expressing genuine interest. Create opportunities to understand what your “coworkers” are working through “using” an earnest series of whats, whys, and hows. In almost all cases after the other party has explained to you their project, they’ll turn the tables and ask you how you’re tackling yours.
This is when the magic happens because the moment others feel you are genuinely invested in them, they will more likely invest in you. Have complementary skill sets? Even better.
Maintain laser focus
Having observed many people operating in shared workspaces, I’ve noticed a common trend among those who have been more successful.
The most successful tend to hit the ground running not as builders, but as listeners. Upon entry, they begin asking questions and voraciously taking advantage of any available resources they can get their hands on: office hours, guest speakers, one-on-ones, etc. This thirst for knowledge may seem self-serving and borderline obsessive, but it makes sense—building a house with a weak foundation can spell failure.
Once the war chest is full, they immediately enter a laser-focused execution mode where they combine and apply all their learnings with existing knowledge to crank things out with incredible throughput. They never stop asking questions, but priority goes to production. Like scientists, they perform their due diligence, formulate their hypotheses, and experiment relentlessly until statistically significant results are unearthed.
All of this requires focus. [But you should be] a good observer and listener first. In short, absorb first, apply later.
Tip: Always have earplugs and/or headphones ready to tune out noise during moments of focus. I also recommend this Spotify playlist that has done wonders for my office productivity.
Always be generous with knowledge
Imagine a room filled with people running around blindfolded. This is your typical coworking space.
What most founders won’t tell you is that, in not-so-minced terms, no entrepreneur knows exactly what they’re doing. Data helps drive more informed decisions, but in most cases it boils down to one fact: everyone’s winging it.
Now imagine yourself back in the room. You struggle like everyone else to find your way, but eventually someone else learns to take the blindfold off of one eye. She then, in turn, teaches you how to do the same and restores half of your vision. What is your immediate reaction? If you are a halfway decent human being, you will offer a thank you and try to impart the same knowledge to others around you. This is your ideal coworking space.
Upon joining a shared space, you will be answering questions as much as asking them. You may get frustrated and see this as a waste of time, but rest assured it is not. Not only are you constantly revisiting the personal values that drive your own business philosophy, but you also are imparting valuable knowledge that could change the course of someone else’s life for the better—a first step toward building the very meaningful relationships cited above.
Knowledge is best served family style, not a la carte.
3) The Power of Millennials
With the official announcement from the Census Bureau that there are more than 83 million Millennials in the U.S., making them our largest generation ever, it’s somewhat surprising that the latest survey from Manta shows that most small businesses are not targeting Millennial customers.
Survey highlights include:
Only 15 percent of small businesses market specifically to Millennials. The most common reason (given by 42 percent) more businesses don’t is they don’t consider Millennials a part of their primary audience. However, of the businesses that have marketed to Millennials more than 80 percent have experienced positive results.
Here’s a deeper dive into some of the questions:
How does your marketing differ to Millennials vs. other groups?
- Advertising medium and tactics – 33.8 percent
- More personal – 29.6 percent
- Content (e.g. advertising copy or voice) – 14.1 percent
- More engagement – 14.1 percent
- Less personal – 7 percent
- Less engagement – 1.4 percent
Where do you focus your marketing efforts to Millennials?
- Social media – 54.9 percent
- Website or blog – 15.5 percent
- Email – 12.7 percent
- Paid online ads – 4.2 percent
- SMS – 2.8 percent
- Other – 9.9 percent
The most popular social media platforms used to communicate with Millennials:
- Facebook – 63.2 percent
- LinkedIn – 18.4 percent
- Twitter – 7.9 percent
- Instagram – 2.6 percent
The two most common reasons given for not marketing to Millennials is lack of marketing budget (25.8 percent) and believing they’re not key buyers in their industries.
Many (42.7 percent) of the businesses say they don’t plan to change their products or services to better serve Millennials.
Let me add that if you sell stuff that is not specifically targeting senior citizens, you ignore Gen Y at your own risk. It’s mind boggling to me that so many small businesses would ignore more than 25 percent of the U.S. population.
4) Use Video to Capture Millennials’ Interest
Speaking of marketing to Millennials, if you decide to get smart and target this very important market, you may want to consider video. If you’re wondering why you should care, Millennials will spend more than $200 billion annually starting in 2017 and $10 trillion in their lifetimes.
According to Animoto, the results of its 2015 Animoto Online and Social Video Marketing Study reveal that “Video is no longer optional for brands and businesses looking to market to Millennials.” The study shows 70 percent of Millennials “are likely to watch a video when shopping online and 80 percent find video helpful when researching a purchase decision online.”
The study further shows that compared to Baby Boomers, Millennials are 150 percent more likely to comparison shop with video while in-store, and 146 percent more likely to watch a video if it’s available on a company’s site while shopping online. And 80 percent of Millennials say video is helpful when they do the initial research for a purchase decision. Brands must strategically incorporate video into their online presence to assist millennials throughout the purchase cycle.
Take a look at the numbers:
- 85 percent of Millennials find product demo videos helpful
- Almost 75 percent say video is helpful when comparison shopping
- 70 percent are likely to watch a company video when shopping online
- 69 percent find video helpful post-purchase to research additional items from the same company
- Nearly 33 percent says it’s helpful to watch video to learn more about a company before making a purchase
- Millennials are 264 percent more likely to share videos about a product, service or company while shopping online than baby boomers
- 62 percent prefer to watch a video from a company instead of reading text, and more than half are likely to watch a video from a brand if they receive it in an email. 60 percent would rather watch a company video than read a newsletter from your company
Reinforcing what I’ve long said about mobile, 48 percent of Millennials only watch videos on their mobile devices. To nobody’s surprise Millennials use social media to engage with brands:
- 84 percent follow brands on Facebook
- 76 percent follow companies on YouTube
- 47 percent follow companies or brands on Twitter
- 42 percent follow companies or brands on Instagram
5) Use Credit Cards Perks to Incentivize Employees
There was some interesting insight in the Capital One Spark Business Barometer for Q3, suggesting a high percentage of small business owners aren’t using business credit cards for their business purchases and aren’t maximizing the points they generate as best they can. In fact, only 52 percent use business credit cards for at least a portion of their business expenses, 27 percent use both personal and business cards and 20 percent don’t use a business credit card at all.
But what I really found interesting is Capital One highlighted a business owner that not only uses a business credit card (all entrepreneurs should be using a separate business credit card; it helps your separate business and personal expenses), but does so in a smart and innovative way.
Chris Lindland, the CEO of BetaBrand, sends his employees abroad with the credit card miles he earns using his card. You can read how he decided to do this here, but every 4 to 6 weeks the company announces which lucky employee gets to go on “an international adventure.”
What a smart idea this is—you’re spending the money anyway, get something to reward your employees with at the same time?
6) 5 Steps for Incorporating Online Learning Into Everyday Work
In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, it helps if a business can develop its own talent. Bet you think that’s not possible for a company like yours.
Rafael Solis, the co-founder, CMO & SVP of Product atBraidio, a collaborative learning platform for talent development says it is possible. He explains the steps you need to take to bring online learning to life within your small business—and help you gain big company outcomes.
Creating formal and sustainable talent development programs remains a real pain point for small businesses. Still, small businesses realize that, in order to compete in increasingly competitive markets, they need to invest deliberately and intelligently in their development of employees—not only to boost the bottom line, but to grow and retain high performers. What you may not realize is you can also improve employee engagement and your bottom line by building online learning into everyday workflow.
Many small businesses fear they don’t have the resources or knowledge for a formal dedicated learning and talent development initiative. However, choosing to do nothing is the wrong response. Opportunities for learning and knowledge sharing abound in small business environments; often all that is needed is to raise awareness of them.
For more sustainable and relevant learning and development, small businesses must strike the balance between integrating employee-driven, or “user-generated” learning into their everyday workflow and leveraging existing learning content created by professionals that is more readily available than you may realize.
Follow these five steps:
- Identify Your Bottlenecks From the Bottom Up: Inefficiencies in your daily workflow are really learning opportunities in disguise. By taking a hard look at your everyday processes, from sales, to logistics, IT maintenance, accounting, marketing and otherwise, you can start to create learning content that is centered on solving the real-world problems that impact your bottom line. While you are busy running your small business, your employees are your eyes and ears on the ground—when it comes to identifying problems, they are your best source for proposing new ideas for learning.
- Encourage Peer-to-Peer Knowledge Sharing: Once you have identified your bottlenecks, you should begin encouraging employees to propose their own learning topics and even design their own courses. Not only will this convey a deeper appreciation for learning, it is likely that their coworkers will respond better to battles fought and relevant lessons learned by their peers, rather than from management. Solving the “one-and-done” problem of typical learning initiatives, peer-to-peer learning takes cues from the era of apprenticeships to provide support and continuity while being a more affordable and sustainable alternative to expensive instructor-led training, often inapplicable online courses, static webinars and impersonal conferences.
- Excel in Employee Engagement: The fact is that learning and development is impossible without first establishing a company culture of healthy employee engagement. Therefore, as a small business, you must ask yourself: “How do I engage my employees so that they want to learn, support and share knowledge with one another?” It starts at the top. Opening up the wizard’s curtain can work wonders in fostering an environment where one feels connected and engaged. Simply communicate transparently the vision and goals for your small business—both in the short term and long term and both broadly and specificly—so that your teams not only know what they are doing, but they will also know why they’re doing it.
- When in Doubt, Get Feedback: Even when you have successfully identified your bottlenecks, encouraged peer-to-peer education and engaged your employees, as with everything on the small business journey, you will still have to overcome some roadblocks along the way. Again, your best asset in these moments will be your employees who are now in the driver’s seat of your learning process. As a small business owner, in order to successfully create and implement a learning and development initiative, you must always proactively source and integrate feedback from all of your employees.
- Select the Right Software. Large corporations have historically provided their employees with learning programs to sharpen their talents and acquire the necessary skills to thrive in diverse, evolving environments. However, when small businesses explore the usual options to similarly train, educate and develop their staff, they feel overwhelmed. The truth is that many of the popular learning management systems (LMS) that are used throughout corporate America are bloated, clunky and cumbersome. You may feel outpriced for an LMS, however, that’s because they typically have way more bells and whistles than a small business needs.
The right learning management system for a small business should have the flexibility to combine curated and employee-generated content, it should foster real-time peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and scale as your grow. A cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) can reduce your exposure to investing too much money, while helping you align with small business trends such as the rise of contract workers and telecommuting. Most importantly, choose a solution that is designed specifically around fitting easily into your employees’ daily routine.
Affordable, sustainable, effective learning is within reach—maybe closer than you think. The payoff can have a huge impact on corporate culture to attract, develop and retain top talent, and it can boost your bottom line with overall performance gains. By taking these five steps to success, your small business can enjoy a healthy employee learning and talent development environment for years to come.
7) Getting Help with Cybersecurity
Consumers are understandably jumpy considering how many high-profile cybersecurity breaches we’ve all heard about. And yet a recent survey commissioned by DeVry University shows small business owners are still “largely unprepared” to withstand cyberattacks. The good news is, however, many are planning to take action and invest in new or enhanced security measures to protect their customers.
Rajin Koonjbearry, Ph.D., a professor in DeVry University’s College of Engineering & Information Sciences says, “The increased demand for cybersecurity experts has created new professional opportunities for recent grads in computer information and technology fields.”
According to the survey, nearly 50 percent of small-business owners have been victims of cyberattacks and 80 percent think cybersecurity is a greater concern now than they did a year ago. Although less than one-third of small business owners feel “very prepared” for a cyberattack today, nearly 75 percent of those surveyed plan to increase their spending on cybersecurity expertise and resources over the next five years and 61 percent plan to hire a cybersecurity expert within the next year.
That’s one reason why the cybersecurity field is projected to grow 37 percent between 2012 and 2022— much higher than the national average for all occupations.
8) Don’t Keep Data Breaches Secret
Zix Corporation, a leader in email data protection, just released the results of a research study focused on American consumers’ views on data breaches. The Qualtrics-conducted study shows 84 percent of those surveyed say the best way a company can regain their trust after a breach is to notify them right away and provide a high level of contact. Additionally, 92 percent think a company should be required to report a data breach to their entire customer base, regardless of breach size.
Consumers may be a little naïve however—49 percent have not changed their shopping habits after all the massive retail breaches over the past two years and 60 percent trust retailers to protect their credit and debit card information.
Additional survey findings include:
- 70 percent of respondents claim they keep up-to-date with news about data breaches, while only 51 percent consider themselves knowledgeable on the topic of data breaches and cyber security
- 48 percent of respondents continue to shop at stores that have experienced a breach because they believe all businesses are vulnerable to data breaches
- 48 percent of respondents believe that outside of the attacker, an organization’s IT team/developers should be held responsible for a data breach
9) Protecting Your Identity
LifeLock, an industry leader in identity theft protection, and Javelin Strategy & Research studied travel behaviors and their impact on identity fraud. Their survey found the risk of identity fraud is increased by international travel—international travelers were 1.5 times more likely to become victims than those who did not leave the U.S.
LifeLock recommends if you’re planning global travel you should plan ahead and pack light to help protect against losing valuables. It also identified the top 5 risky destinations for international travel:
- Eastern Europe (2.4 times more likely to experience identity theft)
- South Asia (2.4 times more likely to experience identity theft)
- Western Europe (1.7 times more likely to experience identity theft)
- Canada (1.5 times more likely to experience identity theft)
- Latin America (1.5 times more likely to experience identity theft)
The survey identified risky behaviors that increased the chances of travelers becoming victims: those who post pictures and check in with GPS on social media are the most at risk, increasing their chances 46 percent and 27 percent respectively.
If you’d like to minimize your travel risks, LifeLock recommends the following tips:
BEFORE YOU GO
- Store documents like your Social Security cards, birth certificates, and/or marriage licenses in a safe or safety deposit box.
- Travel Light! Clean out your wallet: carry only two credit cards and a debit/ATM card. Make a list of the card companies’ phone numbers in case your wallet is stolen. Do not keep this in your wallet.
- Tell your card companies where you’re going to help monitor for unauthorized purchases or so your own real transactions don’t get flagged.
- Try to use a credit card instead of a debit card. If your card is breached, it may be easier to dispute the charges with your financial institution.
- Make sure your luggage tag only has your last name and phone number.
- Don’t talk about your dates of travel on social media.
Keep your identification and other crucial documents on your person, not in your luggage.
Be careful of odd-looking ATMs. Identity thieves attach “card skimmer” devices to grab your information as you’re grabbing cash. Sometimes you can spot them—the card insert slot looks larger or deeper than normal and there is typically a camera.
Use the hotel room safe to stow away important documents.
Use Wi-Fi cautiously. Don’t transact or check your banking statements and try not to enter any passwords. Same goes for the computers that hotels may offer in business centers; they can also be rigged with simple devices that fit into the USB port to steal your information.
Stay alert: whether in a social situation, like a bar or club, or in a crowded space, like public transit, be aware of your belongings, in particular your phone and other items with personal information. Only take your phone out when absolutely necessary.
Take a social media vacation on your vacation–even accessing social accounts can increase your chances of identity fraud. But, if can’t give up social media platforms, don’t geo-tag. Disable this function on your mobile device. You can post a #latergram. It may be hard not to snap and post instantly, but try to wait until you get home.
10) Mobile Invoicing Grows
If there’s any doubt that mobile business activities are growing, listen to this statistic—Invoice2go, the mobile app that offers small businesses easy-to-use invoicing, expense tracking and simple reporting tools, just announced more than one million invoices are created globally every month by Invoice2go customers.
Invoice2go CEO Greg Waldorf says, “This shows that small businesses everywhere are realizing the power of handling critical tasks like invoicing in real-time. Invoicing is the first step to getting paid, and by sending an invoice on the spot, as soon as the job is done, businesses can take control of their cash flow.”
Mobile invoicing, says Invoice2go, which has more than 200,000 customers, saves business owners time and streamlines business operations.
Invoice2go users can create invoices from a smartphone, tablet or computer. The app is packed with a number of features, such as simple charts and reports for business performance at a glance, Receipts2go expense tracking, Calendar2go time on the job tracking, Maps2go, a snapshot of where clients are based, Sign2go which allows clients to sign estimates and invoices on the spot, Scan2go, a barcode scanner and Statements2go, which allows you to create, print and send clients account summaries.