business

19 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

1—Small Business Jobs Report

Private sector small business employment decreased by 52,000 Jobs in May, according to ADP Small Business Report. Overall, ADP reports there were 27,000 jobs created in the private sector economy, the lowest job growth in nine years.

 

2—Small Business Owners Want More from Their Accountants

Small and mid-size businesses gain a competitive advantage when their accountants offer them more than bookkeeping services, according to a just-released report by Zoho, in partnership with AccountingWeb. Analysis from the report suggests that accountants are particularly well-suited to provide reliable technology advice to SMBs struggling through software decisions and unable to afford outside consulting.

Given the risk of business ownership and the relatively high potential for failure, SMBs are increasingly seeking practical guidance, specifically on which software, data security, and network to choose, as well as more general technology advice.

The survey provides insight into how accountants feel about giving technology advice and why they are stepping up to be more than just bookkeepers. According to the report, accountants are being asked for technology advice from 83% of their client base. Outside of tax season, nearly 40% of accountants receive anywhere from five to 20 technology questions per month. These findings conclude that SMBs are looking for outside input and hoping to get answers by consistently asking their accountants for help. (if your accountant isn’t proactively offering help, you should ask for it.)

Additional findings that may impact an SMB’s business decision to ask their accountants for technology advice:

  • Accountants are typically interested in handling questions about the following types of technology: desktop accounting software (62%), software training and support services (46%), and data security (57%).
  • Accountants are motivated to provide technology advice because their clients are asking for advice (38%) and it allows them to exercise their passion for technology (21%).
  • Accountants expressed concerns about providing technology advice to clients, with some feeling out of their depth (22%), expressing worry about liability issues (19%), and feeling concerned about getting sucked into complex projects. (17%).

“These findings show business owners are clearly seeing their accountant and bookkeeping partners as far more than simply number crunchers. The challenge for those professionals is to revise their business models to capitalize on that demand. [But], if business owners expect to receive valuable invaluable technology advice then they need to be prepared to pay for it,” says Andy North, publisher at AccountingWeb. “This is part of a wider change in the relationship between accountants and their clients that started at the turn of the century.”

“Zoho helps accountants overcome the challenges of giving business advice by providing an all-in-one suite of apps that connects an accountant’s core focus, finances, with nearly every tool their client may need,” says Raju Vagesna, Zoho’s Chief Evangelist. “In addition, our Zoho Partner Program provides financial professionals one-on-one trainings, resources, and support to help them expand their accounting and bookkeeping practices. Zoho is excited to continue working with accountants and helping businesses expand and develop.”

You can learn more about this in this blog post and in the infographic below.

 

3—Small Business & Tariffs

Tariffs are affecting SMBs—and not in a good way.

In its latest monthly survey measuring CEO hiring/investment decisions Vistage reveals 32% of SMB CEOs feel tariffs are negatively impacting their businesses. The survey also found economic confidence among small businesses is still well below what it was a year ago.

  • While 69% of small businesses expect increased revenues this year—that number is slightly down from last month’s 72% and noticeably less than last year’s 82%.
  • 10% of small business leaders are planning cutbacks in overall investment spending.

The report says if the trade wars persist, the survival of some small firms will depend on their entrepreneurial ability to adapt quickly.

And according to the BizBuySell May opinion poll:

  • 43% of small business owners claim Chinese tariffs will increase their business costs
    • (of those) 64% plan to increase prices in order to stay afloat and 27% will cut spending
  • 65% of small business owners have considered switching to suppliers outside of China
    • (of those) 54% are looking for a U.S. based supplier.
  • 20% don’t think they can survive if Chinese tariffs last more than one year.

 

4—Networks are Key to Advanced Digital Innovation

As digitally-maturing companies invest more in innovation, they are achieving transformation at a faster pace than early-stage companies, according to a just-released study by MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) and Deloitte. This is the fifth year the annual study (in its 8th year) focused on digital business. According to the study 80% of respondents from digitally-maturing companies say their organizations cultivate partnerships with other organizations to facilitate digital innovation. At developing companies, the number drops to 59%, and at early-stage companies, only 33% do the same.

“This year’s study shows more reflection by business leaders on what innovation means and how to best achieve it,” says Deloitte Digital’s Doug Palmer, an author of the report and principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Digitally-maturing and early-stage companies alike recognize the importance of innovation. However, this year’s study shows more concrete guardrails are needed to support long-lasting models for innovation through collaboration, experimentation and ethical considerations.”

Based on a survey of more than 4,800 managers, executives and analysts from global organizations, digitally maturing companies are not only innovating more, they’re innovating differently. This group is increasingly driving innovation through collaborations—established externally through digital ecosystems and internally through cross-functional teams—for greater agility. According to the study, 83% of digitally-maturing companies use cross-functional teams to innovate, compared with 55% of early-stage companies.

“We see that digitally maturing companies increasingly innovate with cross-functional teams. They’re more likely to have an agile, fail-fast, learn-fast mentality,” says Gerald (Jerry) Kane, guest editor at MIT SMR; professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management, Boston College; and an author of the report. “All organizations should be careful, though, to consider the ethical implications of their work—on business and society. We found a company’s digital innovation sometimes outpaces its governance.”

This increased agility doesn’t come without risk. Innovation through collaboration can encourage companies to move faster than governance allows. As innovation continues to accelerate, digitally mature companies are considering both the social and the ethical implications of digital transformation. The study found that with greater flexibility in company structure and employee roles and responsibilities comes the need for ethical standards—something companies are increasingly considering, but not as swiftly as they evolve:

  • Company policies increasingly reflect ethical considerations regarding digital innovation. Digitally-maturing companies are more likely to have adopted these policies with 76% of them implementing, compared with 62% of developing organizations and 43% of those in the early stage.
  • Despite a recognition of ethics’ role in digital innovation, companies may not be doing enough. Only 35% of respondents across maturity levels say their companies are talking enough about the ethical implications of digital business or communicating the impact of their digital initiatives on society. And only 46% of CEOs say their companies are spending enough time on ethical matters.

“This year’s study shines a light on companies across all levels of digital maturity that are starting to reflect on the big-picture impact of innovation,” says David Kiron, executive editor of MIT SMR and an author of the report. “More leaders are thinking deeply about the influence of new innovation models on their business operations and society at large.”

Visit MIT SMR to download the full report. To explore specific implications digital innovation has on individuals’ career outlooks, take this self-assessment. Get additional study insights from Deloitte Insights’ Accelerating Digital Innovation Inside and Out: Agile Teams, Ecosystems, and Ethics report.

 

5—The ROI of Digital Sales Assistants

Consumer expectations are at an all-time high, according to zoovu. Today, armed with technology, specifically AI, marketers can fill the gaps within the customer journey, creating a simplified purchasing process.

Digital sales assistants, zoovu says, are one of the strongest ways to drive customer loyalty, overcome choice paralysis and increase conversion rates.

Check out zoovu’s infographic below, showing the deployment of digital sales assistants has increased by 809% over the past five years.

 

6—Online Ordering Options at Restaurants are a Must

A TD Bank survey of restaurant and food service industry decision makers at the International Restaurant and Food Service Show of New York this spring reveals 52% of respondents think online ordering will have the biggest impact on payments in the industry in the next two years. But 57% aren’t currently offering this.

Key data points on point-of-sales (POS) systems and other payments trends:

  • Mobilizing mobile: 74% of survey respondents identify mobile payment acceptance as the POS feature they’re most aware of. Plus, it’s also the most appealing feature of POS systems, according to 66% of respondents.
  • Contactless what? Only 39% of respondents are aware that contactless payment acceptance is a feature of a POS system, and only 31% say that feature is the most appealing to them. However, contactless can significantly decrease checkout time and improve customer satisfaction.
  • Loyalty rewards—time for a makeover: This year, 71% of respondents note they do not offer any type of rewards or loyalty program, even though in 2017, over half of agreed this would be beneficial to their businesses.

By capturing the value of loyalty programs, facilitating mobile optimization and leveraging emerging technologies to improve and implement online ordering capabilities, merchant solutions providers can help restaurant owners and other food service professionals meet customer expectations and keep up with industry trends.

 

7—Why Consumers Disable Ad Blocking Tech

Ad blockers may be popular, but nearly 60% of people who use them voluntarily disable the technology—or “whitelist”—for certain website pages or domains, according to a new consumer survey from portfolio website Visual Objects.

Visual Objects surveyed consumers who use ad blockers to understand their ad preferences and why they “whitelist” domains. The report helps businesses effectively market to ad blocker users.

The types of websites consumers whitelist ads on:

 

The findings show businesses can still reach users of ad blockers by improving their ads’ user experience (UX) and putting consumers in control of their ad experiences through customization and feedback features.

Most people whitelist ads on social media: 56% of people who whitelist websites do so on social media. Experts say businesses can reach ad-blocking internet users more effectively on social media channels.

Ben Williams, director of advocacy at eyeo, says social media ads are less intrusive, so ad-fatigued consumers are more likely to tolerate them.

“A lot of the ads you see on social media happen within the feed,” Williams says. “I don’t think the annoyance factor is quite as high because you can scroll right through it.”

Ads on other types of websites often disrupt the user experience by slowing the load time of a page or creating a barrier to important content. Less than 30% of survey respondents whitelist news websites, and only 17% whitelist smaller blogs.

Social media ads offer a better user experience than traditional banner and pop-up ads, creating a channel for businesses looking to expand their advertising reach.

Users of ad blockers want to customize their ad experiences: Social media is also ad blocker users’ favorite place to customize ads; 45% of survey respondents say they have customized their Facebook ads, and two-thirds of ad blocker users (66%) have customized ads online.

When businesses allow users to customize ads, it satisfies ad-blocking consumers’ desire to have more control over their ad experience.

Respondents divided on paying for ad-free browsing: People who use ad blockers diverge when asked about paying a premium for ad-free browsing. According to the survey 35% say they’re unlikely to pay for an ad-free internet experience compared to 40% who say they are likely to pay.

As ad-free browsers and paid subscription models become more popular, the survey suggests that ad-supported businesses should experiment with offering fee-based, ad-free options on their websites.

Read the full survey report.

 

8—Cybercriminals Go Stealthy

After studying website attacks that plagued 2018, SiteLock says a new trend arises—cybercriminals swept the web with secrecy, focusing on stealthy attacks to compromise websites rather than taking a more conspicuous approach.

These findings are from the SiteLock 2019 Website Security Report, an analysis of over 6 million websites to determine the most prevalent cyberthreats websites face today. Using proprietary algorithms and technology, SiteLock has identified the top website risk factors and emerging trends in 2019.

Throughout the report they explore three primary topics that drive website security:

Attack patterns and risk factors: Learn why website attack attempts per day grew by 59% from January 2018 to December 2018.

Web code vulnerabilities: Find out the most vulnerable CMS applications and why they are at risk even when kept up to date.

Malware types: Discover the top three types of malware that were found on more than 50% of infected websites, and what it means for your website.

The SiteLock 2019 Website Security Report also includes a cybersecurity checklist with tips and best practices to ensure your cybersecurity strategy is proactive and your website remains secure.

You can download your free SiteLock 2019 Website Security Report by clicking here.

 

9—Using Credit Cards for Startup Funds

According to a report from CompareCards, 14% of businesses in the U.S. used credit cards to start their companies.

Key findings:

  • 14% of businesses with employees in the 50 largest metro areas used credit cards for startup.
  • The Riverside, CA metro has the largest percentage of entrepreneurs starting businesses with the help of credit cards. Of the 32,683 firms with employees in Riverside, 6,193 (18.95%) used credit cards to raise startup cash. Portland came in second for using credit cards for startup capital.
  • Milwaukee was the metro entrepreneurs were least likely to use credit cards for startup capital.
  • Entrepreneurs in larger cities are less likely to use credit cards to start a business than entrepreneurs in less-populated regions.
  • Smaller companies are more likely to use credit cards to start their businesses. Across the 50 metro areas, the average business had about 17 employees, while the average business that used credit cards for startup capital had about seven employees.

Check out the full report.

 

10—Who Do Consumers Trust?

Trust is an important part of any business relationship. A survey from Airtasker found there are just some professionals that we trust more than others. They showed respondents eight photos of individuals of different races and genders “applying” for positions and asked who they trusted more and what are the most important qualities they consider when hiring.
Study highlights

  • Experience was actually rated the #1 most valued quality for hiring an employee, followed by education and sincerity
  • Gender, sexuality, and race leveled out at the bottom of the list, which was a promising discovery
  • Doctors are apparently the most trusted professionals. People are nearly 4% more likely to turn to female health care practitioners over male ones
  • Men are more trusted as IT workers, plumbers, taxi drivers/ride-hailing services and auto mechanics than women

 

11—Consumer Buying Behaviors

Check out the Valassis annual 2K19 Coupon Intelligence Report, highlighting what influences buyer behavior. The study finds while new technologies (VR, cashierless checkouts, etc.) entice consumers, tried-and-true retail components, like coupons, help encourage conversions:

  • 89% say using coupons saves them “a lot of money”
  • 85% are willing to shop at multiple stores to find the best price
  • 86% will try a new product if they have a coupon for it
  • 45% use coupons always or very often
  • Millennials crave savings more than ever, with 92% using print and 88% using paperless coupons received on a mobile device or downloaded to a loyalty card

 

12—Cost of Counterfeits

Counterfeit goods cost the economy billions of dollars. Learn more in the infographic below from Best Choice Reviews.

 

Quick Clicks

 

13—The gender pay gap exists everywhere—including on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Check out this great report from WebsitePlanet. It reveals the problem and offers solutions.

14—Picking the right fonts for your brand personality and budget from Venngage.

15—Preventing WebRTC leaks to protect your privacy from Downloadastro.com.

 

16—Best Entrepreneurial Cities

I love listings that rank the best areas for entrepreneurs. Check out the latest listings on Small Business Trends for:

Only three cities made all three lists: Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego—all California cities. Read the articles to see why I thought Los Angeles deserves to be one of the best cities for women, minority and young entrepreneurs.

17—Help for Entrepreneurs

Aileron is a non-profit organization built to help America’s aspiring entrepreneurs. Small businesses and entrepreneurs can come to Aileron’s campus where the coaches and advisors are small-business advocates (many are former business owners and leaders) who supply the tools and strategies to advance their clients businesses.

Aileron is based in Tipp City, Ohio and was founded by Clay Mathile, former CEO and Owner of The IAMS Company. Aileron offers an array of services, each one founded on the Professional Management System and tailored to clients situations, goals and ambitions.

Aileron also hosts a Summit each year on campus where attendees gather for two days to learn, grow and develop—diving deeper into professional management. This year’s Summit is September 18-19 and the theme is: Innovate. Scale. Grow. If you want to attend, details can be found here.

 

Cool Tools

 

18—The New Project Manager

ProjectManager.com is well known as the premier software for planning projects. But a few months ago they updated, adding powerful new features, which they say “transforms our award-winning software into a central hub where teams can work, plan and achieve amazing things together…with the launch of the all new ProjectManager.com, we’re going way beyond traditional project planning!

In addition to new features like Kanban boards and upgraded task lists, this release contains big improvements to the look and feel of the software, plus some impressive performance upgrades under the hood. In fact, the company says the Kanban board was the “most frequently requested feature” from their customers,

You can learn more about it here.

 

19—One-Click NDA

DocSend, a secure deal management platform, recently launched One-Click NDA, the fastest, easiest NDA signing process on the market. With One-Click NDA, DocSend allows SMB business leaders to securely share sensitive documents, track how people engage with them, and execute NDAs in one place.

Getting NDAs signed can be a painful and time-sensitive process that involves multiple downloads, red lines, and negotiations. NDAs are typically shared via email or eSignature platforms whereby the viewers are required to read it, sign it, download a copy for their records. As a result, the NDA provider can have multiple documents returned by the viewer that are not all in one place for easy access, nor tied to other documents the owner has shared. Additionally, there is no easy, clear audit trail for legal purposes.

DocSend’s One-Click NDA provides owners with a simplified NDA workflow. To require a One-Click NDA on DocSend, all an owner has to do is check a box titled “Require NDA to view” while sharing any confidential document. When the viewer receives the document, they confirm that they have reviewed and agree to the terms of the non-disclosure agreement. The NDA is automatically downloaded for the viewer and their eSignature is recorded in DocSend.

Business stock photo by OPOLJA/Shutterstock