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Join Us for #MetLifeSmallBiz Twitter Chat: Playing to Your Small Business Strengths

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 17:30

At a time when the economy is growing and unemployment remains low, small businesses are once again populating job boards with available positions and hiring new employees. Yet, many face a daunting challenge: competition from other employers who woo job candidates with attractive salaries and a bevy of benefits. The key differentiator for many small businesses is the business owner themselves and the culture they create. Driven by business purpose and the owner’s personality, a company culture is defined by powerful values that permeate and motivate strong teams.

How, as a small business owner, can you use your distinct personality and leadership style to define culture and attract top-tier talent? By playing to your strengths.

To better understand your personality, its strengths and how these two forces combine, join us for the MetLife-sponsored Twitter Chat “Playing to Your Strengths: Helping Small Business Owners Be Competitive,” scheduled for October 5, 2016, 7-8 p.m. ET, 4-5 p.m. PT.

Small Business Trends founder and CEO Anita Campbell (@SmallBizTrends) will serve as moderator.

She will be joined by Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), Small Business Trends columnist and president of GrowBiz Media, and Susan Solovic (@SusanSolovic), small business expert, best-selling author and two-time SBT Small Business Influencer Award winner.

This trio of business experts will address the following questions:

What type of culture do you want to create for your business? Is it go-go-go, with different challenges every day or more like one big happy family where everyone knows each other? These experts will help you paint a clear picture of how using your natural tendencies can help you build a strong company culture.

How do you attract and retain the right employees in a competitive market? Employees are drawn to positive business cultures that reflect their values. Small business owners have the opportunity to influence this culture by offering incentives that demonstrate their values and reflect the type of company they want to create.

What are the main challenges you face when it comes to offering benefits? There are many reasons employees choose to work at smaller companies. Lifestyle, flexibility and the challenge of helping set the company’s direction are intangible benefits. But it is also important small business owners take the time to understand their employees’ needs and offer benefits that meet those needs cost-effectively.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how small business owners can use their natural tendencies, personalities and values to play up their strengths and compete for the best employees.

More Details

What: Twitter Chat “Playing to Your Strengths: Helping Small Business Owners Be Competitive”

Who:

Where: Twitter

Hastags: #MetLifeSmallBiz (#SMBChat)

When: Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT)

Twitter Image via Shutterstock

This article, "Join Us for #MetLifeSmallBiz Twitter Chat: Playing to Your Small Business Strengths" was first published on Small Business Trends

Snapchat Introduces Sunglasses to Record Video in Effort to Differentiate (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 15:30

If you’re in the market for a new pair of sunglasses, there’s a new brand to consider. Snapchat — yes, that’s right, Snapchat — just revealed a new product: sunglasses that record video.

Like the popular smartphone app, the glasses record video in ten second increments. But since they’re wearable, it gives the user more freedom to record their daily lives.

The glasses cost $130. But this is likely just the start of some new products from Snapchat. The company actually just rebranded. Its website now states the company’s name as Snap, Inc. and describes it as a camera company.

This is an interesting shift for the popular mobile app. But after Instagram released Instagram Stories, which includes many of the same features as the Snapchat app, the company needed a way to differentiate itself.

Brand Differentiation Sometimes Takes a Lateral Step

Releasing sunglasses, cameras and other physical products to go along with its app could prove to be a difficult process for the company. But it shows that there are plenty of different ways for businesses to expand and distinguish their offerings. And that goes for your business too.

It might have seemed like a natural progression for Snapchat to simply add some extra features to its app. But the company went a different direction. And that could just set it apart enough to succeed.

Image: Snapchat/Newsy

This article, "Snapchat Introduces Sunglasses to Record Video in Effort to Differentiate (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Microsoft Doubles Down on Cybersecurity with Improvements to Windows Defender

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 13:30

Microsoft’s Windows Defender is getting a major retooling to improve its ability to combat malware.

This week, 23,000 IT professionals are gathered at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta to learn about some of the latest technology advancements in security, intelligence and the cloud.

One of the most talked about topics is Windows Defender, the security software built into Windows 8 and 10. Some small business owners use it as their only means of defense against malware and viruses.

Windows Defender hasn’t always been as effective as might be hoped blocking malware and malicious URLs so Microsoft (NASDAQ: MFST) has made improvements, which will prevent users from needing to add third-party antivirus solutions.

A Look at the Latest Windows Defender Update

One of the improvements, announced earlier today, regards a new feature for Microsoft Edge (Microsoft’s new browser) called Windows Defender Application Guard, designed to make Edge the most secure browser on the market.

It insulates Windows 10 from untrusted browser sessions and browser-based malware attacks such as phishing, protecting employee devices and preventing the spread of malware across an organization’s network.

“Unlike other containment offerings on the market, Windows Defender Application Guard opens a browser session in an isolated ‘container’ built into the hardware, preventing malicious code from moving across an organization’s devices and onto its network,” says the announcement. “Instead, malicious code is contained behind walls, like a maximum-security prison for hackers.”

Microsoft lists the following reasons why the Defender Application Guard is critical:

  • 90 percent of phishing attacks use a browser to open and initiate an attack;
  • Containers used in other browsers leave businesses vulnerable to 90 percent of the most prevalent security attacks because they don’t offer hardware-based protection;
  • Publicly accessible social network profile and timeline data allow hackers to personalize phishing messages, dramatically increasing the open rates. Messages that address recipients score click rates as high as 56 percent in emails and 37 in Facebook messages, the announcement says.

Windows Defender Application Guard comes built into Microsoft Edge and Windows 10 and will be made available to customers starting next year.

Application Guard is not the only new security feature Microsoft is rolling out. Three others announced today include:

Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (WDATP) and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

Windows Defender will share security issues it detects with Office 365, which helps IT professionals to investigate and respond to security threats across Windows 10 and Office 365 more quickly and efficiently.

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection

Microsoft is extending Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

Two other enhancements include dynamic delivery, which enables users to safely check email attachments while they are being inspected to determine whether or not any security risk exists, and URL detonation, which analyzes links in real-time to identify unknown malicious URLs.

Office 365 Threat Intelligence

This feature provides alerts and information on the origin of specific attacks, allowing IT to guard against threats proactively and take immediate action.

Microsoft’s aim is to build security deeply into every product family and provide a strategy that helps ward off cyber attacks. The new features enable IT and security administrators to stay ahead of evolving threats and provide effective countermeasures, rendering such threats powerless, the company says.

Image: Microsoft

This article, "Microsoft Doubles Down on Cybersecurity with Improvements to Windows Defender" was first published on Small Business Trends

Microsoft Announces Cloud Partnership With Adobe

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 12:00

At the Microsoft Ignite Conference in Atlanta today, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced a new partnership with Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE). Under the partnership, Microsoft Azure will become the preferred cloud platform for the Adobe Marketing Cloud, Creative Cloud and Document Cloud.

Customers of Adobe will have the benefit of Microsoft’s powerhouse Azure cloud infrastructure behind them.

The CEOs of both Microsoft and Adobe appeared on stage at the event’s opening keynote to make the announcement. The fact that the CEOs were there shows the significance of this strategic partnership to both companies.

#Microsoft & #Adobe partnership announcement for delivering OOTB SaaS offerings via Azure cloud kicking off #MSIgnite pic.twitter.com/Fq0cAMX8QL

— Rob Young, IDC (@RPYoung7) September 26, 2016

Adobe Cloud on Microsoft Azure

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen emphasized the importance of having a strong cloud infrastructure, noting that Adobe processes 23 trillion transactions each quarter, or over 90 trillion per year.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said  in a statement, “Together, Adobe and Microsoft are bringing the most advanced marketing capabilities on the most powerful and intelligent cloud to help companies digitally transform and engage customers in new ways.”

Both companies have made the cloud a central part of their strategies. Under Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft has placed heavy bets on Azure and is investing significantly in all of Microsoft’s cloud offerings including its Office 365 software-as-a-service application.

Adobe moved its business to a cloud model a couple of years ago, and the move is paying off.  Adobe’s most recent financial results show strong performance.

Adobe also will get access to Microsoft’s AI/machine learning service Cortana Intelligence Suite — giving customers access to more intelligence.

For small businesses that use the Adobe Cloud products, in the near term as Adobe transitions to Azure it means a strong cloud infrastructure to rely on.  Some Adobe services have been running on Amazon’s AWS, but it’s not clear if under the new arrangement Microsoft will become Adobe’s exclusive cloud infrastructure provider.

Microsoft Ignite is Microsoft’s conference for technology professionals and executives. The conference sold out weeks ago with over 23,000 people registered to attend.  The conference is also being simulcast live from the event website at ignite.microsoft.com.

Image: Microsoft

This article, "Microsoft Announces Cloud Partnership With Adobe" was first published on Small Business Trends

I Hear My Customers Talking About Cloud, How Do I Deliver and Make Money?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 10:30
Sponsored Post

Customers want the cloud. They expect it. They demand it.

The only problem is, some IT providers aren’t giving them what they’ve heard about and want.

IT companies that serve SMBs are having a tough time making the transition from providing traditional solutions to offering services in the cloud, says one industry expert.

Why is that?  According to Chaitra Vedullapalli, cloud architect and CMO of Meylah,  one reason is “they don’t know the simple steps that will get them to add cloud offerings and still be profitable.”  She adds, “It’s not because IT providers don’t want to satisfy or wow their customers — they desperately do.  It’s just they are struggling for how to get there.”

She went on to add, “Here’s the sort of thing we hear from IT providers: ‘we don’t have the ability to sell and support comprehensive cloud based solutions.’  My company did a survey of 300+ SMB IT firms, and that’s an actual quote from one who has been in business for 5+ years.  He knows it requires business change, but the owner said he didn’t know how to go to market with strong recurring cloud offerings.”

Vedullapalli went on to say that a phenomenon is occurring where IT infrastructure and architecture are moving from the traditional on-premises approach and into the cloud. She adds that IT providers, many of which are small businesses themselves, are struggling to adapt with the trend.

“IT is changing because of the cloud,” Vedullapalli said. “Not too long ago, everything was housed in the organization on-site — servers, firewalls, databases and backups. Now, IT companies have to think like managed service providers and take care of their customers by stitching hardware, software, services and support together in the cloud.”

She added that the focus has shifted from “Exchange servers and Oracle databases” to mobile, cloud, big data and social.

“The tech stack is changing to accommodate mobile users, so you can’t have the data sitting on a local server any longer,” Vedullapalli said. “You need big data for analytics and social because people are connecting.”

The Cloud Ready Business Opportunity

According to a 2016 IDC report, cloud spending will exceed $500 billion by 2020. This includes software as a service, platform as a service, infrastructure as a service and all the professional and managed services around cloud technology, as well as the supporting software and hardware to make cloud implementations happen.

“Cloud-oriented partners with more than 50 percent of their revenue in the cloud will see twice the growth and one-and-a-half times the gross profit of other partners,” Vedullapalli said, citing the report. “It’s become clear that cloud-ready businesses are more profitable and grow at a faster rate than other non-cloud providers.”

4 Ways to Make Money from the Cloud

No one doubts that the cloud affords a wealth of opportunity, but the question is how to profit from its adoption. Vedullapalli outlined four ways cloud-ready businesses can make money:

  • Proof of Concept (POC). “In the old world of IT, providers would sell licenses and someone else would implement the services,” she said. “In the new cloud world, the approach to winning the customer differs. Cloud services or managed services providers need to pitch a proof of concept. This helps both the companies to learn and tinker with the process so that they can implement on scale. Without a POC, the service provider may never get the opportunity to attract users or engage the prospective client in a business transaction.”
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue. In the past, IT companies would often focus on project-based engagements, which meant that when one project was completed, they had to chase down another. With the cloud, providers can now use a software subscription model that enables them to become a managed solution provider and offer services and maintenance year-round, reducing customer churn.
  • Monthly Recurring Margins. Vendors can make money by reselling enterprise software. “Now, everyone is a reseller,” Vedullapalli said.
  • Upsell via Custom Projects. A fourth way to accrue income is through custom projects.

These are four ways to make money providing cloud based solutions.  Are you prepared to make money?

Cloud Paper Clips Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "I Hear My Customers Talking About Cloud, How Do I Deliver and Make Money?" was first published on Small Business Trends

FedEx Follows UPS in Announcing Shipping Rate Increases

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 09:30

FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), which operates FedEx Express, the popular express delivery and parcel shipping service, announced Monday it will increase shipping rates by an average of 3.9 percent for U.S. domestic, U.S. export and U.S. import deliveries. FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery will also increase by an average of 4.9 percent. The new shipping rates will take effect January 2, 2017.

New FedEx Express Shipping Rates

In a nutshell, the recently announced FedEx rate changes include:

  • FedEx Express rates which will increase by an average of 3.9 percent for U.S. domestic, U.S. export, and U.S. import services,
  • FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery rates which will increase by an average of 4.9 percent, with FedEx SmartPost rates also changing,
  • FedEx Express and FedEx Ground U.S. domestic dimensional weight advisor which will change from 166 to 139, and
  • FedEx Freight rates which will increase by an average of 4.9 percent.

The FedEx SameDay City pricing changes for calendar 2017 will be announced later this year.

FedEx Express Surcharges Also Increase

For small businesses and individual consumers shipping items, the newly announced FedEx increases are not the only pain point in the announcement. The FedEx Freight extreme length surcharge will also change from $88 to $150 and be applied to shipments 12 feet or greater compared to the prior 15 feet.

FedEx Express also said it will begin adjusting its fuel surcharge on a weekly basis instead of the current process where adjustments are made monthly with a two-month lag between U.S. government published fuel indexes and the fuel surcharges.

“Adjusting on a weekly basis will reduce lag time from two months to two weeks, thus providing a closer alignment between fuel costs and fuel surcharges at the time of shipment,” announced the shipping company on the official FedEx Newsroom blog.

The changes in FedEx shipping rates and surcharges come hot on the heels of an announcement by rival United Parcel Service, Inc., (NYSE:UPS), which unveiled plans recently for shipping rate hikes of its own.

UPS Shipping Rate Hikes

UPS announced new shipping rates on September 19. The new UPS rates will take effect December 26, 2016, and represent a 4.9 percent increase (on an average) of its service rates on all ground, air and international shipments.

Additional UPS rate changes include:

  • Daily rates for UPS U.S. Air and International services which will increase an average net 4.9 percent,
  • UPS Air Freight rates within and between the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico which will increase an average net 4.9 percent, also effective December 26, 2016, and
  • UPS Freight which will also increase an average net 4.9 percent effective September 19, 2016.

UPS also stated in its announcement that an additional handling surcharge will apply to any package with the longest side exceeding 48 inches, instead of 60 inches for all Air and International packages. The additional handling charge will increase by $0.35. The shipping company also said that effective January 8, 2017 additional handling surcharges will apply to UPS SurePost packages.

Cost of Shipping Packages Rising

The price of shipping has skyrocketed over the past decade, with the cost of ground shipping for both FedEx and UPS having grown 79.2 percent, according to Lojistic, a transportation software provider. Air shipping rates have grown 95.5 percent over the past decade. These price hikes hit small businesses and individuals the hardest, and not big companies like Amazon that usually manage to negotiate around those hiked rates.

That being said, it is worth noting the FedEx announcement did not match UPS’s rate increase. FedEx made a 3.9 percent increase on Express and International Export and Import products compared to a 4.9 percent average increase for UPS, and the FedEx Ground minimum charge was at $7.25 compared to UPS’s $7.32. The companies are also set to have totally different published shipping rates for the first time in years.

FedEx Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "FedEx Follows UPS in Announcing Shipping Rate Increases" was first published on Small Business Trends

13 Ways to Make the Most of Your Freelancers

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 08:30

Small businesses across the country are relying on freelance contractors to complete more of their tasks. And one type of freelancer with a specific skill set is being called upon more than others: the tech guru.

These invaluable freelancers can get you out of a jam with knowledge only they, seemingly, have when you need it most. So members of the Young Entrepreneur Council have advice when dealing with this talent as part of your small business operation. They answer the question:

What’s one tip for making the most of your freelance tech talent?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How to Manage Freelancers Who Work in Tech

Here’s what they’re saying now …

1. Send Them Customer Feedback

Get more from freelancers by reminding them that their work matters. We’ve had success by providing freelancers with direct customer feedback, even if it’s not about their specific task. For example, we’ll share a customer’s thank you note when our product helps prevent a robbery at their home. This keeps the freelancer in tune with our mission and shows how her work is making a difference. – Andrew ThomasSkyBell Doorbell

2. Keep Them as Informed as the Rest of the Team

Sharing your company’s objectives and areas for growth allows external contributors to think strategically about what they’re doing for you. If they’re out of the loop, the work becomes assignment-based and inspires less passion. Inform them of what’s going on so they can go above and beyond the scope of the work they were originally hired to do. Build that long-term relationship. – Sharam Fouladgar-MercerAirPR

3. Schedule Regular Meetings

Clear and effective communication is key to a successful (and long-term) freelance relationship. You don’t have the benefit of everyday in-person interactions with your freelance help, so it’s especially important to set up regular calls. Schedule no less than weekly meetings and strongly consider Skype or Google Hangout so you can put a face to the name. Also consider in-person meet-ups if possible. – Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

4. Stay Hands Off

Give them the basics of any project or assignment on the docket, along with specific expected results. Then, let them do their thing. Tech folks are normally pretty savvy individuals, and may know of easier and quicker ways to get the job done. Micromanagement is usually unnecessary. – Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

5. Build Processes Together

Ideally, you’re hiring experienced freelancers coming to the table with a clear perspective on solving a given problem. Rather than prescribing specific methods or processes for getting a project done, work together to figure out what process makes sense based on your needs and their past experience. This is especially useful for ongoing relationships where their work can be improved over time. – Ross BeyelerGrowth Spark

6. Use Remote Employee Monitoring Software

The main reason we built our time-tracking software was to enable us to manage our remote workers more effectively. When you have a freelance tech team, you’ll need to see where projects are without bothering them every day, or else progress will slow down. We use a combination of time tracking, screenshots and activity levels to see which tasks are progressing and which are wasting time. – Jared BrownHubstaff

7. Put Specific Procedures in Place

The hardest thing to achieve when coordinating freelance tech talent is consistency across the board. When you have policies and procedures in place that define and lay out the workflow steps, there’s no ambiguity or room for interpretation. You’ll get a consistent output each and every time. – Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

8. Give Them More Freedom

Trust that the freelancer you’ve chosen knows what they’re doing and has the expertise to handle any project that is thrown their way. This will help them feel more confident when working on projects and be more efficient. It will also give you a sense of their skill level and knowledge, so you have a better idea as to what projects you’ll feel confident giving them to work on later.   – Stanley MeytinTrue Film Production

9. Get Them More Involved

Freelance tech talent wants to work with companies because they want to be able to say they were part of something big. So it helps to make sure they are involved as much as possible in projects. This includes giving them the freedom to experiment and seeing if they can fix certain issues. The more they know they have to do, the more likely they are to work harder and smarter.  – Peter DaisymeDue

10. Respect Their Time

You might want them to be part of your team, but because they do not receive the same type of benefits as your full-time employees, you don’t get to call them at odd hours. If you’re not remunerating their time and the issue is not directly related to something that they’ve already done, do not propose new projects off the cuff. By respecting their time, they’ll respect your project. – Cody McLainSupportNinja

11. Tie Incentives Into the Big Picture

Tie freelance staff goals and incentive packages into departmental goals or to the company’s bottom line. If company revenues go up, for example, so do their bonuses. But the underlying purpose of this is to have freelancers understand the bigger picture and to become team players. If they are detached from the big picture, don’t force it. Don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole. – Brandon Stapper858 Graphics

12. Give Them Something Entirely Different to Work On

Putting your tech talent to work on other projects where they can listen to your other team members and departments helps them better understand what you need and allows them the freedom to brainstorm other solutions for you. – Abhilash PatelRecovery Brands

13. Listen to Them

When working with a freelancer, it is easy to fall into the trap of only telling them what you want and how you want it done. You hired an expert to help you with something you are not able to do yourself. It can be beneficial to ask them what their opinions are because they have the experience that you yourself do not have. – Michael BurdickParo

Freelancer with Team Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "13 Ways to Make the Most of Your Freelancers" was first published on Small Business Trends

50 Business Ideas for Creative Entrepreneurs

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 07:30

If you consider yourself to be creative, then you’ve already got one of the essential traits of a successful entrepreneur. But you can use your creativity for more than just building a business plan and solving unique problems. You can actually build a business that’s fully centered around creativity. Here are 50 unique business ideas for creative entrepreneurs.

Small Business Ideas for Creative Entrepreneurs Art Seller

If you’re a visual artist, you can create original drawings, paintings or prints of your work and build a business around selling them. You can go to local art fairs or sell on sites like Etsy.

Wedding Photographer

If photography is more your medium, providing photography services at weddings can be a lucrative business.

Jewelry Maker

You can also use your creativity to craft wearable art like necklaces and earings. You can use wire, beads or any number of other materials to put together unique jewelry and then sell it online or in local boutiques or at events.

Logo Designer

For creative entrepreneurs that want to work with other business owners, you can offer design services where you help businesses design basic branding materials like logos.

Musician

If you play any instruments or are musically inclined, you can build a business as a musician. You can either play at local venues or produce albums to sell.

Blogger

Writers or creative content creators, blogging is a viable business opportunity for entrepreneurs in a variety of different fields and areas of interest.

Mobile App Designer

For those who are at least somewhat tech savvy, app creation has turned into a huge field in recent years. You can offer your services designing apps for businesses or even create your own apps to sell.

Vintage Reseller

You don’t have to actually make your own products in order to showcase your creativity. You can curate vintage or secondhand items and then use your photography and writing skills to sell or showcase those items to potential customers online.

Interior Designer

If you have a keen eye for design and home décor, you may be able to build a business working with interior design clients.

Landscape Designer

Or if you prefer the outdoors, you could instead work with clients to design their landscaping and outdoor spaces.

Home Stager

You could even get a little more specific and work with homeowners or realtors who are looking to sell their spaces and just want them temporarily staged so they’ll appeal to more buyers.

Art Dealer

You can also use curation skills to start a business as an art dealer. You just need a keen eye for art and enough resources to procure some artistic pieces.

Airbrush Artist

Airbrushing is a popular artform that can translate to a lot of different mediums. You can use your airbrushing talents to customize t-shirts and accessories and sell them online or in local markets.

Clothing Designer

You could also design clothing items from scratch and then work to get your line featured in stores or boutiques or even start your own.

Personal Stylist

If you don’t necessarily want to design the clothes but you still have a passion for fashion, you can build a business working as a personal stylist to help clients shop and put together outfits.

Portrait Photographer

For photographers who are more interested in staged photo shoots, you can build a business as a portrait photographer and work with clients for things like senior pictures, family photos, head shots or even pet photos.

Caricature Artist

If you prefer drawing and you have a bit of a sense of humor, you could turn that skill into work as a caricature artist at local events or venues and show off your talent to paying customers.

Prop Stylist

Photographers, event planners and other types of businesses could sometimes use help styling their photo shoots or spaces. So you can build a business as a prop stylist who comes in and arranges items in a way that’s visually pleasing.

Tattoo Artist

Tattooing is an ancient art that remains popular with a wide variety of people. If you’ve got the artistic sense and the training, you can build a successful business providing tattoos for clients.

Hair Stylist

There’s a lot of potential for creativity when it comes to being a hairstylist. You can offer unique cuts, updos and even coloring services.

Makeup Artist

Makeup is another area that requires a lot of creativity. You can start a salon type of business or even just travel to work with clients at their location.

T-shirt Designer

Got a cool idea for a t-shirt? You can really easily build a business selling t-shirts that you’ve designed by using online platforms like Redbubble or Cafepress.

eBook Author

If storytelling is more your cup of tea, you can write your own books and then self-publish them online as ebooks.

Website Designer

Web design continues to be a huge growing field. You can build a web design business by working with clients to build custom websites or even sell pre-made templates on sites like Etsy.

Cake Decorator

Food can be another great area for showcasing creativity. You can decorate wedding cakes and specialty desserts to really show off your artistic skills.

Face Painter

Fairs, birthday parties and other events will often feature face painters and similar activities for kids. If you enjoy that type of atmosphere, you can offer your services to clients in your area.

Video Producer

Online video is a huge growing trend. You can build a business by producing your own videos and earning a share of ad revenue on YouTube or even work with other clients to help them with their video projects.

Tie Dye Artist

If you love the tie-dye look, you can use that art form on everything from t-shirts to socks and sell them online or at local events.

Balloon Sculpturer

Events also often feature balloon artists. You can offer your services to create balloon art for event attendees or even set up balloon installations as part of the event décor.

Card Designer

Cards and similar paper goods are still popular with some consumers. You can design your own cards and sell them online or in local paper goods stores.

Wood Worker

If you’re good with tools and enjoy putting things together, you can build and sell so many different items made out of wood, from small sculptures to intricate pieces of furniture.

Disc Jockey

Or if you enjoy music and working at events, you can build a business working with clients as a disc jockey for weddings or other gatherings.

Dance Teacher

There are so many different forms of dance you can learn and teach to clients. You can start a dance studio in your community and work with clients of all ages.

Music Teacher

Or you can teach people different musical instruments or even provide voice lessons to more musically inclined clients.

Voice Artist

Using your voice can also be considered a creative outlet. You can offer your services as a voice-over artist for advertisements or other materials.

Tailor

If you’re skilled with sewing and measuring, you can build a business as a custom tailor and work with clients to alter their clothing and accessories.

Custom Embroiderer

You can also work with clients to customize clothing and other items through embroidery. You can even work remotely and just have customers mail you their items since there isn’t any measuring involved.

Quilt Maker

Quilting is an intricate art form. But if you have the skills and the patience, you can make money selling your custom quilts to those who want really special gifts or customized items.

Knit Goods Seller

If you enjoy knitting, you can create handmade hats, scarves and other items and sell them online or at local craft fairs.

Candle Maker

Candles are popular gift items with many consumers. And you can get really creative customizing the scents and even colors of different candle products.

Basket Weaver

Basket making is another traditional art form to consider. You can make and sell baskets of all different shapes and sizes.

Pottery Maker

Or you can sculpt custom dishware and décor items out of clay and glaze them in various colors.

Calligrapher

You can also build a business as a calligrapher. You can offer your services to anyone from businesses looking for traditional lettering for marketing materials to couples who want an extra special touch for their wedding invitations.

Children’s Book Author

Children’s books offer a lot of opportunities for creativity. You can get creative with the storytelling and you can also put together unique illustrations to appear throughout the book.

House Painter

If you enjoy painting large-scale projects, what better canvas is there than a house? You can offer your services to homeowners looking to paint the outside of their homes or even specific rooms on the inside.

Soap Maker

Soap is another product that allows you to get creative with both scents and aesthetics. You can make various soap and beauty products to sell online or at local events.

Bag Designer

If you enjoy designing and putting together unique accessories, you can build a successful business as a handbag designer and sell your creations online or get them into local boutiques.

Printable Seller

If you want to design artwork but don’t necessarily want to produce or ship it in a physical form, you can offer to sell your work in a digital form and then just allow your customers to print it themselves.

Book Binder

Book binding is an older art form. But you can still build a business around it by offering your services to independent authors or businesses or even creating your own handmade journals or sketchbooks for sale.

Art Supply Store Owner

Or if you want to use your love for art and creativity to help others showcase their own talents, you can open a store that sells various art supplies and creative materials.

ArtistGuitaristInterior DesignerAirbrushCake Decorator Photos via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Business Ideas for Creative Entrepreneurs" was first published on Small Business Trends

What to Teach When You are Teaching Entrepreneurship

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 06:30

A couple of weeks ago, I started teaching my fall semester entrepreneurship classes. Even though this is my 26th year teaching the topic, I was confronted once again with the question of what to teach.

For me, this isn’t the oft mentioned debate of whether entrepreneurship can be taught at all. As someone who has conducted research on the genetic roots of entrepreneurial behavior, I know that there is an innate component to entrepreneurship. But I also know that even when people are born with a gift for something — whether that is for a sport, playing a musical instrument, managing people or identifying new business opportunities — those people still need coaching.

The dilemma I face is to which students do I target the class? Sure, all educators are faced with the problem of teaching to students of varying abilities. But when teaching, a professor faces another source of student variance — the motivation for taking the class. A small number of students take entrepreneurship classes because they are starting a new company right then and there. A larger number of students take the courses to learn about the subject matter for the future.

That’s not how it works when you teach a lot of other subjects. Almost no one takes a civil engineering class because they have a half built bridge in their yard and need help completing it. Few students sign up for criminal law because they are up on charges or are defending their best friend in court next week. They don’t take chemistry because they are making illicit drugs or fertilizer and think they haven’t got the formula quite right. And tax accounting is rarely selected by students unable to complete their own or Apple’s tax returns.

None of this would be a problem if it weren’t for the way teaching is evaluated in American universities. In more than a quarter century of teaching I have never had anyone come into my classroom to observe how well I was doing. Instead, that judgment is made at the end of the year by a committee that looks at the scores on the end of semester evaluation forms that students complete.

It doesn’t take long in the classroom to figure out what gets the high ratings. Students prefer “how-to” storytelling about the startup process to serious content almost universally. So if you want high scores, and the pay raises that go with them, you go with the how-to material.

The rub is this: that subject matter is only good for the minority of students who are starting real companies today. The how-to information will largely be forgotten or out of date by the time that many start a company, and isn’t of much use to those in the classroom who become investors or policy makers or big company managers.

Entrepreneur Education Based on How-To Can Quickly Become Obsolete

While I think about changing my approach every August, and could easily switch, given my own start-up investment experience, I have always resisted. Every summer I get one or two emails from former students who tell me that they just made use of something in their entrepreneurship class they took a decade earlier.

Some of them even tell me that they wish they could evaluate the classes now. They thought they liked the other approach better when they were in school. But now they don’t see any use for the other material.

Professor Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What to Teach When You are Teaching Entrepreneurship" was first published on Small Business Trends

Protect Your Small Business with Strong Company Policies

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-09-26 05:00

The Wells Fargo Bank fraudulent activities was a jaw dropping news event. We are all aware of protecting passwords online, but the bank magnified potential problems ahead. Upon walking into a bank, one normally trusts the tellers employed to handle bank accounts. The question becomes, is this a unique occurrence or might it happen again? If again, how are patrons of any bank to protect themselves?

No one has all of the answers. However, being proactive toward protecting accounts will save time, money and potentially your business, too. Behind all of the online hacks and unscrupulous behavior in everyday settings, companies are obliged to have solid policies in place. Nothing can be left to chance any longer.

Company Policies

Legal advice is the first avenue to embrace. After being made aware of responsibilities by your attorney, create company-wide policies for in-person and online activities. The CEO and executive team should have regular meetings with the head of Human Resources. Together define policies for all employees.

Establish additional procedures for those employees in charge of the online accounts. Make certain each person in charge is well aware of their responsibilities and liabilities should missteps occur. They are to keep track of account login information and convey all changes that are made to management.

The reason this is so important is that on more than one occasion, employees have departed from the company employing them. They left with all of the account information in hand. The employers never had knowledge of any of it. Consequently, these employers lost control of their former accounts. It becomes extremely difficult and time consuming to try to regain ownership of the accounts in question.

Business Password Tips
  • Make it difficult for others to guess passwords.
  • Create a unique password for each account.
  • Inter-mix a combination of capital and small letters, punctuation marks, and numbers.
  • Avoid common words.
  • Use a dozen character spaces.
  • Change passwords quarterly.
  • Decide upon a safe storage system to efficiently recall the updated passwords.
  • Retrieve all passwords prior to an employee quitting and change immediately.
  • Install the two-step verification for each account.
  • If access to an account is denied, pursue all avenues to resolve the issue.
  • Consult with attorneys as needed.
Entrepreneurs

You worked hard to build your personal brand and company brand. Saving both time and money is an essential element for business owners. Avoid long drawn-out grievances attempting to resolve issues as described above. Instead, be pro-active. Securing accounts is the key ingredient for continuing to make positive strides each day. Incorporate a plan of action, today. Review all of your accounts and current passwords. Be vigilant in review to find any strange looking activity.

eMail Check

Maintain a watchful eye prior to opening questionable email. Most phishing email are evident, but on occasion some are not so obvious. Prior to clicking any link or file, click the email address of the sender. This should give clear indication of whether the email is valid or not. This action only takes a second but will prevent much grief in the end.

Sales Tips
  1. Read articles as they become available on the latest security issues.
  2. Take time to ensure you follow new suggestions for protection.
  3. Consult with an attorney.
  4. Trade information with peers.
  5. Pose questions regarding protection in your groups.
  6. Be proactive by incorporating the suggestions.
  7. Actively check your accounts each day.
  8. Take immediate action should anything look suspicious.
  9. Get help with marking certain email “suspect” to more easily trash.
  10. Train employees on all policies.

Policies Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Protect Your Small Business with Strong Company Policies" was first published on Small Business Trends

Join Ramon Ray and Citrix ShareFile for Events September 27 and 29

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-09-24 13:30


Want to learn to use technology to remain smart and competitive?

Then join Ramon Ray and Citrix ShareFile for two upcoming events in Denver, Colorado, September 27 and Austin, Texas September 29.

The one-night interactive presentations both entitled “10 Ways Growing Companies Use Technology to Stay Smart and Competitive” are designed to impart insights.

Some of those shared insights will include how to use technology to save time and money and to increase productivity. See more specific details in the Featured Events section below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

#SmartBreak
September 27, 2016, Denver, Colorado, USA

Join Citrix ShareFile and Ramon Ray, best-selling author and technology expert for a one-night interactive presentation on “10 Ways Growing Companies Use Technology to Stay Smart and Competitive.”

#SmartBreak
September 29, 2016, Austin, Texas/USA

Join Citrix ShareFile and Ramon Ray, best-selling author and technology expert for a one-night interactive presentation on “10 Ways Growing Companies Use Technology to Stay Smart and Competitive.”

Leadpages’ Converted 2016
October 18, 2016, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Converted 2016 will be an immersive experience taking place over two action-packed days in Minneapolis. We’ll share data-driven, practical tactics that will make a difference in the way you grow your business.

Discount Code
biztrends ($100)

Lean Startup Conference
October 31, 2016, San Francisco, CA

A gathering of thousands of thought leaders at Pier 27 for a week of keynote talks, interactive workshops, speed mentoring, industry dinners, bootcamps, and startup tours at the scenic edge of San Francisco. The conference unites intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs from government agencies, international conglomerates, boot-strapped startups, and civic organizations in their mission to create radical change in their industries.

Influencer Marketing Days
November 14, 2016, New York, NY

Influencer Marketing Days is a unique conference dedicated to all things influencer marketing. The event is for marketing professionals responsible for their company’s influencer marketing strategy, campaign development, and relationship management. Whether you already run influencer marketing campaigns or you’re investigating ways to leverage this powerful type of marketing, Influencer Marketing Days will equip, educate, and inspire you to make the most of your efforts.

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training
November 07, 2016, New York, New York

This ?five-day ?program ?is ?a ?highly ?interactive ?training ?course ?in ?lean ?Six ?Sigma ?tools ?and ?methodology. ?You will learn how to apply ?Lean ?Six ?Sigma ?tools ?and ?methods to improve key business processes.Follow Us: @Vectorint
Discount Code
GBIL2016 (10%)

NextCon16
November 14, 2016, Scottsdale, AZ

No matter your industry, company size or role, you can take advantage of the fresh perspectives, creative strategies and expert advice shared at NextCon. You will walk away with actionable insight to take your business to the next level and gain the insight and inspiration to make an impact.

More Events More Events

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

Event Microphone via Shutterstock>

This article, "Join Ramon Ray and Citrix ShareFile for Events September 27 and 29" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Tips to Prepare Your Business for the Future

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-09-24 12:30

Even if you have a successful business today, there’s no guarantee of that success continuing into the future. You need to continually update your practices and keep up with trends in order to stay successful going forward. Here are some tips from members of our small business community for ensuring future business success.

Use These Tech Trends to Get Your Business Out of a Rut

Every small business experiences down times. But the constantly changing tech tools available to you can potentially help you break out of those ruts. In this post at Hellbound Bloggers, Pradeep Kumar shares some current tech trends you can use to break your small business out of a rut.

Know These Three Things About the Future of Content Marketing

Content marketing is constantly changing. So you need to keep up with the trends if you want your content to continue making an impact going forward. This post by Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media includes some things you should know about the future of content marketing. And you can also see what BizSugar members had to say about the post here.

Keep Your Mobile Workforce Data Secure

Today’s technology allows more workers than ever to go mobile. But when you have a mobile workforce, you need to make sure that all your sensitive business data is secure. That’s why this Biz Epic post by Tara Miller includes some tips for keeping your mobile workforce data secure.

Consider These Things Before Implementing CRM Software

CRM software can be helpful and even essential when it comes to growing your business. But you need to choose the best possible option in order to get all of the benefits. Here, Jennifer Boyd of the Acumium blog shares some things you should consider before implementing a CRM software for your business.

Get More Done and Be More Productive

The more productive you’re able to be for your business, the more you’ll be able to grow and improve your business going forward. This Success Harbor post by George Meszaros includes some tips for getting more done. And members of the BizSugar community comment on the post as well.

Create Smart Succession Planning for Your Leadership Pipeline

Strong leadership can make a huge difference for any business. But if you have a sizable team, you likely can’t take on all of the leadership roles yourself. That’s where succession planning comes in. Brad Callahan goes into more detail in this Marketing Innovators post.

Start a Blog for Your Business

If you haven’t started a blog for your small business at this point, you probably don’t think it would provide many benefits. But it could be time to rethink that, according to this CorpNet post by Nicki Escudero. She lists some of the reasons your small business needs a blog.

Attract More Visitors to Your B2B Blog

Even B2B businesses can potentially benefit from blogging. But you need a strategy to really attract visitors. This Basic Blog Tips post by Ahmad Raza includes some unique tips for getting B2B blog visitors. And BizSugar members chime in with input on the post too.

Find Your Story, Seinfeld Style

There are so many platforms and outlets for small businesses to share stories and content online. But you need to actually find a compelling story in order to really make an impact. Of course, there’s always a way to find a story worth telling, as this Media Shower post by Judah Fund illustrates.

AMP Up Your Content With Tips from Google

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project has the potential to help businesses get their websites and online content more easily found by mobile consumers. And Google recently shared some tips for businesses, broken down in this Search Engine Journal post by Matt Southern.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to:  sbtips@gmail.com

Future Concept Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Tips to Prepare Your Business for the Future" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Build Your Own Yoga Business

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-09-24 09:30

For over a thousand years, yoga has been celebrated as one of the globe’s most effective methods of spiritual release. Yoga promotes both physical and mental strength, offers a great workout and helps practitioners get in tune with their bodies. Bearing all that in mind, it’s little wonder yoga is so popular.

More than one in 10 Americans regularly do yoga. Meanwhile, around 44 percent of adults have reportedly considered giving yoga classes a try — and an estimated 80 million Americans say they’ll likely take yoga up at some point in the next twelve months. Overall, the country’s yoga industry is worth around $16 billion per year, and offers plenty of fantastic opportunities for aspiring small business owners.

Kick starting a successful yoga business may be a bit more complicated than mastering the Crow Pose. It takes a lot of research and dedication in order to find your place in the industry. But so long as you’re willing to put in a bit of work, there’s no reason you can’t succeed.

Starting Your Own Yoga Business

To help you get started building your new yoga business, here are a few crucial tips:

Get Certified

First thing’s first: if you want to start your own yoga business, you’ll need to get fully certified from a Yoga Alliance affiliated institution. The Yoga Alliance is the organization that oversees industry standards across the country — and although it’s not technically mandatory for a yoga instructor or school to get certified by the group, it will go a long way in helping your new business to establish some brand trust.

By completing training with a Registered Yoga School, you’ll not only gain an internationally-recognized credential, but you’ll also gain access to the body’s marketing tools, workshops and advocacy alerts. You can either obtain an individual or institutional certification from the Yoga Alliance — depending upon what type of yoga business you’d like to run.

Get a Plan

After you’ve obtained certification, it’s time to think about the type of business you’re going to start. You might want to run classes out of multiple studios as an independent contractor, work with clients one-on-one or even start your very own yoga studio. All of the above could be done on either a part-time or full-time basis. But once you’ve decided, the type of yoga business you’re going to build will be the cornerstone of your business plan.

As with any business plan, you’re going to need to work out fairly detailed cash projections based on the type of business you are starting, area demographics and the resources you will need to deploy in order to manage your business effectively. If you are attempting to launch your own yoga studio, you’ll inherently be forced to take quite a few overheads into the equation, and will most likely need to apply for a loan or funding.

It is usually worth checking out The U.S. Small Business Administration website, which offers a free service to help out with business plans and loan advice.

Get the Right Location

It doesn’t matter whether you’re attempting to run a few part-time classes or open the country’s biggest yoga studio. Either way, you should give location a whole lot of thought. You should always start by conducting market research to better understand your ideal client base. Get an idea for which demographics will account for the bulk of your footfall, and then figure out where a high concentration of those people are regularly found. It’s worth bearing in mind that accessibility and convenience are important to regular yogis, and so you should try to find somewhere readily accessible by car, public transport and by foot.

Studio costs are generally dominated by area rental rates or real estate prices — so if you’re on a tight budget, a bustling downtown location might be hard to snag. Likewise, larger, more established gyms may charge independent yoga instructors more in order to use their premises to conduct classes. In order to minimize overhead and maximize profits, do your research and be prepared to compromise on one or two aspects of your wish list.

Get Insured

If you want to build a successful yoga business, you will need to get insurance. Even if you’re simply instructing the odd class or clients on a freelance basis, it is advisable you obtain professional liability insurance. This will protect you in case any of your clients develop muscle, joint or back injuries as a result of your class and blame you.

You’ll also want to have professional liability insurance if you are planning to start up your own yoga studio. Yet in addition, you must also obtain general liability insurance, property and contents insurance. If you are taking on staff, you must ensure your policies cover trained staff — and depending upon your insurance provider, each employee may need to fill certain requirements. When in doubt, you should always shop around before committing to a policy, and you should always seek legal advice to ensure you’ve covered all your bases.

Get Social

Once you’ve gotten insured, certified and fully funded, it’s time to think about building your clientele. As with all small businesses, social media and digital marketing are crucial to the survival of any aspiring yoga business. It’s important to seek out and engage with would-be clients online. That being said, you definitely shouldn’t take old-fashioned marketing methods for granted.

One of the best places to pick up business will be to catch people in coffee shops, at the gym or in other athletic settings. Hand out fliers, offer start up discounts and never forget that word-of-mouth is your best friend. Get creative, know your audience and reach out to aspiring yoga practitioners wherever possible.

So long as you’re willing to put in a bit of work, there’s no reason you can’t succeed as a yoga instructor or studio owner. But don’t forget that no two businesses are alike, and you very well may run into a few unforeseen challenges along the way. When you hit those challenges, just remember to practice what you preach, and try your best to stay spiritually balanced.

Yoga Studio, Yoga MatsEmpty Yoga Studio Photos via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Build Your Own Yoga Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Good for the Money: How Bob Benmosche Saved AIG From Itself

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-09-24 07:00

Bob Benmosche was retired in Croatia when he got a call to help AIG. It wasn’t just any call. It was a call to help a company that had received unprecedented millions from the government to survive. It was a call to help a company whose employees faced death threats and a board mired in red tape. It was a nightmare. At the end of the story, though, Ben Benmosche would see to it that this company got their happy ending.

In between the first phone call Bob Benmosche received and the end was a heck of a story.

What is Good for the Money About?

“I don’t liquidate things. I build them.”
– – Bob Benmosche

Good for the Money is the story of AIG told from one of its CEOs who managed AIG in one of its most troubling times. This was the time of the “housing crisis” when ill-advised loans went into default putting the insurance company in ruins. Under normal circumstances, the US government would not have intervened but AIG’s business was critical to the economy. So, the government stepped in, serving as a lender to the company.

The chaotic environment that Bob Benmosche faced was evident if you looked at the number of CEOs before him, five in five years.

Benmosche wasn’t your ordinary CEO, though. He was a straight talker who didn’t hesitate to drop a curse word into a business conversation. Several times in the book, Benmosche told people (government officials, the board, etc.) where they could go and what they could do. He also wasn’t someone who would sugarcoat things to make you feel better.

But, Benmosche was also a person who stood up for the everyday person. He joined AIG because he believed in the company and wanted to help taxpayers get their money back. He saw in AIG an opportunity for American workers to prove they could get the job done.

He did it his way.

In what seemed like a miracle, Benmosche embarked on a journey that included plenty of air miles logged, battles with self-seeking board members, government questioning, intense media scrutiny and a struggle with personal illness on the way to achieving something that everyone thought was impossible.

Benmosche was the president of AIG for five years after working in various industries including MetLife, Arthur D. Little, and Information Science. He died of lung cancer in 2015.

Author Peter Marks is a theater critic for The Washington Post. His co-author is Valerie Hendy, an executive in AIG’s Corporate Citizenship department.

What Was Best About Good for the Money?

The best part of Good for the Money is the uncompromising, raw honesty that Benmosche brings to the book. Benmosche is frank about the situation he walked into, his approach to leadership and his own personal life. This approach provides readers with a unique look at the AIG crisis from the inside and a glimpse of business leadership under pressure. Because Benmosche is so honest, he provides access that many readers often don’t get in business biographies.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

Good for the Money is a great story about a guy who proves Washington wrong by believing in himself and his team. That being said, the book delves rather deeply into the confusing waters of finance with talk about derivatives and other complex terms. A glossary or short introduction into this world might have helped those who aren’t familiar with these subjects.

That being said, the story is so powerful that you can still understand without fully grasping the finance or insurance industry.

Why Read Good for the Money?

If you have ever wondered what it felt like to work in AIG during the infamous crisis, Good for the Money will provide an excellent view into that world at that time. Benmosche details a little about the history of AIG, how it grew to its massive size, and what it did to get out of the pit that it fell into.

Good for the Money is also good for any executive-level manager or business owner. The situation Benmosche faced was high pressure. Benmosche isn’t afraid to share what worked and what didn’t. This unique look at leadership under pressure can offer a lot of insights small business owners who are facing tough decisions, especially situations that involve money.

This article, "Good for the Money: How Bob Benmosche Saved AIG From Itself" was first published on Small Business Trends

Vegetarians Want a Choice, Is In-N-Out Burger Listening? (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-09-23 15:30

If you’re a vegetarian, there probably isn’t much you can eat at an In-N-Out Burger. You can order some fries or a burger without the meat, which would basically be just some cheese, lettuce and tomato on a bun. But that’s about it.

Now, a group called the Good Food Institute and some vegetarian supporters are trying to change that. Thousands of people have signed a petition on Change.org calling for In-N-Out to add veggie burgers to its menu.

Popular fast food chains like Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s already offer some vegetarian options. So In-N-Out wouldn’t be the first.

This also isn’t likely the first time In-N-Out has considered adding veggie burgers or some kind of vegetarian option to its menu, since this isn’t even the first petition of its kind that has circulated online. So it’s possible that the restaurant chain did some research and simply decided the cost wouldn’t be worth it.

Pay Attention to Customer Requests, Even if You Can’t Fulfill Them

But when people care enough about something to send a petition, it’s usually something that the involved business should at least look into. In-N-Out may find that there are more vegetarians in its potential market than before. Or it might again find that the cost would be too high.

It’s the same in your small business. You may not be able to act on every customer complaint or suggestion, but at least you should be paying attention.

Image: Newsy

This article, "Vegetarians Want a Choice, Is In-N-Out Burger Listening? (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

In the News: eBay Announces New Partnership, Freshbooks Unveils Updated UI

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-09-23 13:30

If you sell on eBay, you could soon be in for a better experience thanks to a new partnership with Sellbrite. And that’s not the only announcement from the past week that could positively impact small businesses. Freshbooks also unveiled a new user interface that should make the platform easier to use.

There are even more small business headlines from the past week included below in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Small Business Operations eBay and Sellbrite Partner to Offer Sellers Better Online Selling Experience

eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) recently announced a new partnership this time with Sellbrite, a multi-channel ecommerce inventory and order management solution provider, to offer eBay sellers another free service and better online selling experience across multiple channels.

Freshbooks New User Interface Makes Small Business Accounting ‘Ridiculously Easy,’ Company Says

FreshBooks, the cloud accounting software designed for service-based small businesses and solo entrepreneurs, today announced the launch of an entirely rebuilt user interface (UI) designed to make managing invoices, clients and expenses faster and easier. The platform is also expanding its ecosystem of integrations and adding companies such as Google, GoDaddy and Apple.

Tesla Hackers Prove the Importance of Product Testing (Watch)

With great technology comes great responsibility. That’s what Tesla and other high-tech car companies are learning now that they’re working on creating autonomous vehicles and other technologically advanced driving features. A group of hackers recently tested whether or not they could access into Tesla vehicles from miles away — and they were successful.

Riot Launches Introducing Open Source Encrypted Collaboration for Business

The ability to securely communicate in real-time is a key feature of today’s collaborative work environment. Riot, a secure messaging solution designed to bring online collaborations into a single space, has just launched promising to make this as simple and effortless as possible.

Live Chat Returns to Groove Through Olark Partnership

Help desk software provider Groove just announced a partnership with Olark to offer a live chat app to its small business customers. Now, instead of switching between two apps to deliver customer service, the integration creates an all-in-one help desk and live chat solution. This is not the first time Groove has included live chat as part of its product lineup.

Marketing Tips Chipotle Still Trying to Recover From Norovirus and E. Coli Outbreaks (Watch)

Chipotle is still trying to bounce back after those norovirus and E. coli outbreaks that hurt the company’s sales over the past year. So far, the company has given away free burritos, started a rewards program and even offered free drinks to students after classes. But none of those efforts have been able to get the food chain’s sales back to where they were.

Employment These Jobs at Small Businesses Are the Least In Demand

Data recently surfaced about which jobs and positions at small businesses across the U.S. are in high demand. Small businesses have added tremendous amounts of help in the transportation and material moving categories in the last few years. But it seems automation of a lot of small business operations have led to a decline in the demand for the people that used to fill those jobs.

More Small Businesses to Offer Retirement Plans Thanks to Obamacare, says Nationwide

For years, businesses have offered healthcare benefits to recruit and retain talent. But the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has lessened the appeal of such benefits. As a result, small businesses are now focusing on retirement benefits, a new study has found.

Finance BizEquity Partners with Equifax in a Bid to Democratize Business Valuations

What is your business worth? Do you have any idea? BizEquity, an online provider of business valuation big data, recently announced it has entered into a strategic partnership with Equifax (NYSE: EFX), an information solutions and global insights provider, to help answer this very question.

Is the IRS Targeting Small Businesses? Yep, Says One Expert

The “random” audits of small businesses and their owners’ tax returns by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to find unreported income has left the small business taxpaying community feeling like they are being picked on and unduly forced to go “through the wringer.”

Retail Trends H&M Ignores Underserved Market by Pulling Plus Size Clothing from Stores (Watch)

Popular retail chain H&M has reportedly removed all plus size clothing from its stores in New York City. A representative for the company explained that the stores simply don’t have enough room for those clothing options anymore since they’ve added new product lines like home goods and beauty supplies.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Organize-It Sells Everything You Need to Organize Your Closet

Closet organization isn’t most people’s idea of a fun activity. But that’s why so many consumers need assistance in that area. Shoppers in Michigan and online can find some of the essential products they might need to organize their closets and other spaces in their homes at Organize-It.

Social Media Watch Out! YouTube Calls On Users to Help Enforce Community Guidelines

YouTube is encouraging and “empowering” its users to “flag” content that does not meet the site’s community guidelines, while also offering more transparency on how its flagging feature works.

20 Things You Should Know About New 140 Second Video on Vine And Twitter

While companies better known for online video have been duking it out for supremacy in the field, Twitter and Vine have been quietly innovating. Earlier this summer, Twitter announced extended lengths of Vine and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) video uploads to 140 seconds. Here are a few things you should know about the increased video length.

Startup SCORE and Sam’s Club Announce 2016 American Small Business Championship $25K Grand Prize Winner

SCORE, a nonprofit organization that provides mentorship and education to small business owners, and Sam’s Club, the nationwide wholesaler club which also serves many small businesses, recently announced the winners, or Champions, as they call them, of the 2016 American Small Business Championship.

How Startup Investors Can Take Advantage of the International Entrepreneur Rule

The Obama Administration has proposed amending the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations (PDF) to allow select foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the United States for a period of two years to build their companies here.

Technology Trends Need High End Photography for Business? Details of Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 Emerge

Image capturing technology has evolved so much, near professional grade solutions are readily available on smartphones. But no matter how good the technology is on a mobile device, standalone cameras are still the way to go if you really want full professional grade features.

Microsoft Making a Little Brexit of Its Own

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has announced plans to shut down Skype’s London offices. Up to 400 staff members could be made redundant as part of the move, which will see Skype abandon its three-floor building in Holborn in line with a wider restructuring exercise that will also impact freemium enterprise network Yammer.

Weebly 4 Brings Websites, eCommerce, Email Marketing Together to Focus on Business Growth

DIY website builder Weebly today announced a new version of its platform, Weebly 4, that expands the focus beyond websites and ecommerce and adds a marketing element: email. Weebly 4 builds on the previous version, Carbon, by pairing the ecommerce engine with email marketing that creates campaigns on the fly based on customer actions.

10 Features of Apple’s iOS 10 Small Businesses Need to Know About

The new iOS 10 by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been described by the company as its biggest release yet, and as an operating system with more personal, powerful and playful features. The good thing for small business owners is that the new features would seem to drastically enhance the way you can run your business on your iPhone or iPad.

Is the Mobile App Already Dead? comScore Says We’re Nearing “Peak App” (INFOGRAPHIC)

Barring Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and other hugely successful names, many apps are actually rarely used or even downloaded by mobile device owners. Yet many businesses spend considerable time and resources creating apps to engage customers.

What is AMP and Does Your Small Business Site Need It?

The number of mobile only Internet users in the US exceeded desktop in 2014, and the gap is getting wider. This particular trend hasn’t escaped the notice of Google and Twitter, leading the companies to create the Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP project to make mobile pages much faster.

Image: Small Business Trends

This article, "In the News: eBay Announces New Partnership, Freshbooks Unveils Updated UI" was first published on Small Business Trends

Which Social Media Site Do You Use Most for Business? [POLL]

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-09-23 12:00

Social media has become a bigger part of a lot of small business’s marketing and customer engagement strategy since its infancy.

Quick question: Does anyone remember creating a MySpace page to promote their company? Sure, some — musicians, mostly — still use that platform but there are so many more popular options these days. And each one presents unique opportunities to reach an audience in a unique way.

Want to reach the general population? You’re probably using Facebook. Talking to your small business owner contemporaries? That sounds like a job for LinkedIn. Looking to be part of a national movement? A tweet with the right #hashtag gets you involved.

So, this week, we want to know …

Which social media site do you use most for business?

What Are Your Most Popular Social Media Sites?

We’re giving you a choice of the big ones: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.

Let us know which platform is open most on your phone or occupying a tab most often in your web browser. In the comments section below, tell us why.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.

Social Media Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Which Social Media Site Do You Use Most for Business? [POLL]" was first published on Small Business Trends

Jody Glidden of Introhive: Relationship Intelligence Automation is Key to CRM Adoption and Success

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-09-23 10:30

Traditionally sales folks have had a love-hate relationship with CRM applications, meaning they love to hate them. Mainly because they feel they don’t get enough out of them for the amount of time they spend putting information into it.  But now, thanks to machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, CRM is now starting to provide them with real benefits … and real reasons not to hate it as much.

Jody Glidden, CEO and co-founder of Introhive, a SaaS-based platform which brings relationship intelligence into CRM with data automation and sales acceleration, shares how machine learning and automation now makes CRM more appealing to sales professionals.  Below is an edited transcript of the conversation. To hear the full conversation please click the embedded player below.

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Small Business Trends: So from a sales person’s perspective has there been any real benefit to using a CRM system. Because a lot of them felt a bit like it was more of a management system; being able to have the managers see what you’re doing as opposed to giving some real tangible benefits to them using the CRM system.

Jody Glidden: Yeah I think that’s exactly right. When we started to talk to a lot of people out there and try to find out why people were putting their data in the CRM I think part of the reason they were doing it is because they didn’t see any major benefit to them. It was more of a system a log for management. And so they ended up letting it not have all the interesting information which kind of snowball.

Small Business Trends: But when you think about modern CRM in things like helping get and collect a lot of information and making it available to the sales rep it seems like maybe now we’re at a point in time that the sales rep will finally be able to get something out of it that will help them build relationships.

Jody Glidden: What we found is that if you’re asking people to input their contacts and keep those contacts up to date, input their activities, input their post-meeting, put all their action items in there,and so on. It actually adds up to a lot of administrative time. And so nobody is actually doing that. If you apply machine learning to that we can actually automate almost all of it actually. And then the great thing about it is not only are you taking that work away so people could go do something more fun, but in reality you have a lot more selling time and actually do some productive stuff.

The other interesting thing is that you log into the CRM and get more valuable information. I now know somebody else may have touched my customer or that the customer just moved to a new position. And now maybe I should reach out to them again. When you automate your CRM all of the sudden it becomes valuable and it’s not just the system to report to your manager.

Small Business Trends: So we talk automating your CRM is automating the information it comes into the CRM and becomes actionable without the rep having to do so much to find possible insights that make it easier for them to interact?

Jody Glidden: If you think of the way people used to measure CRM adoption it was by how many times people log in. That to me is not really CRM adoption because you didn’t buy it so the people would have a place to log in. You bought your CRM so that data would be logged and that insights could be gained.

So you automate getting all the data in and automate getting the insights out at just the right time. You can do that then it really doesn’t matter how often they login. You’re actually getting the value that you purchased CRM for in the first place.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about what Introhive does in order to help the sales folks find the benefit of using their CRM application.

Jody Glidden:  Introhive bolts onto your existing CRM. And all of the sudden kind of takes all of the work away. It can automate getting all of your contacts in, getting your notes in and all the logs of who’s touching your customer, the meetings, the emails, the action items. Figuring out when people change jobs and all those sorts of things. It does all of that administrative stuff for you. The other thing it’s doing is watching patterns in your meetings, your email reach and all the things you do and it’s bringing all of the actionable insights to you so it can tell you, for example, if you have a meeting with somebody, all of the pertinent information; what’s been touching my customer, what’s latest news, all things you’d hope your people are getting to prepare for the customer but probably are not. This can actually do all of that for you; to get all the stuff that’s interesting.

Small Business Trends: So the bottom line is there’s it looks like there’s a lot of data that’s floating around that could be used to help sales reps better interact and find better interaction opportunities more meaningful themes that they could use that could help them connect with customers. The idea is to get that kind of information into the CRM system so that these folks can use it.

Jody Glidden: Yeah that’s right. All of the stuff that you’re doing via e-mail, via social via phone, face to face, all of the systems that they’re using to touch the customers interact with those customers. A very small fraction of that stuff is actually getting logged. And I one of our customers joked that there were two kinds of employees. They have the people that will actually log everything and that was kind of a bad thing because you’re spending so many hours of their week actually doing that, and then they had people that weren’t doing it and that was a bad thing as well. All of this information really does need to get logged, but doesn’t need to be logged by humans.

The other thing is there’s a bunch of other information aside from that you want your employees to be up to speed on. Things like the latest news, the opportunities that are going on, cross-sell opportunities, buying history; do they have unpaid invoices. Things that you would like to hear your people know before they step into the room. You can actually systematize the process and get people “smart” before you walk in.

Right now I think everybody has the top 5 percent of their sales reps and they wonder what makes those people special; They tend to be more prepared. They look all of these things up before they get to the customer, they don’t just walk in the room. And if you can pull all of that information to them, do the work for them (the research) then you can bring everybody up a little bit more to the same level.

Small Business Trends: So it’s basically being able to provide those insights at the right time – in the process of them building relationship or throughout the customer journey – is critically important. But you don’t want the sales rep to spend either too much time trying to gather that information and then trying to analyze it, and you don’t want them not doing trying to do it at all. So that’s where the automation part comes into the relationship intelligence automation.

Jody Glidden: Machines are much better at this kind of stuff than we are because they can look through huge amounts of data and find just the stuff that is really interesting. Rather than have me go through all of the e-mail exchanges and meetings and try to analyze who in my company for example has the best relationship with my client because maybe I want to bring a colleague to the meeting. This system can actually tell you that in an instant, and about cross-sell opportunities. You’re looking at sort of a quick snapshot of suggestions. It’s all the stuff after really hours of research that are compiled into a two-minute summary.

Small Business Trends: The benefit for the sales rep is now they have a good reason to want to use the CRM system because now it’s actually providing them the intelligence they can use in a way they can take advantage of quickly. But on the flip side there’s a huge benefit for the sales management and the organization because now they’re actually getting that data in from the sales rep. But in addition to that from other data sources that give them an even better picture of what’s going on with an account, what’s going on with opportunities. And then they can prepare and leverage their resources more effectively by having that kind of information.

Jody Glidden: Sales management can actually get all the reports they want. If they can have all of the communications that happened all the way along an opportunity for example which before people are relying on people tagging the right things to the right places. The sales person is actually getting the right information to make them more effective in the meeting or on a call. And then even marketing becomes more effective because right now what keeps happening is sales just keeps asking marketing for more leads but part of the reason they need so many more of leads is because they’re not necessarily taking advantage of leads that they’re given. You can drive up that win rate or the amount of leads that move forward then you’d need fewer of them.

Small Business Trends: So the bottom line is this is a win-win-win. A win on the sales reps side is now they they actually do have a damn reason to use their CRM him because not only are they feeding it but they’re actually getting fed. And then on the sales management side they’re getting more accurate real time information on what’s going on with deals and in the pipeline and accounts so they can plan more effectively. And then overall the you hopefully having better performing sales folks, there’s also a win for the customer or the prospect because now those interactions are going to be much more tailored and much more precise to the needs of the actual person. So it’s not a whole bunch of fishing expedition. It’s not a whole bunch of ridiculous talk. It’s actually targeted based on analysis of the information and providing better information going back out to the prospect or to the customer.

Jody Glidden: Yeah that’s exactly right. I think it’s similar to what happened in online advertising about 10 years ago when relevance because I think people don’t feel like they’re being inconvenienced so much during the process. I don’t mind having a conversation with somebody who is you know smart about my needs and actually can provide helpful information. What I find less helpful is when people haven’t spent the time to have a meaningful conversation.

This article, "Jody Glidden of Introhive: Relationship Intelligence Automation is Key to CRM Adoption and Success" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Best Ways for Entrepreneurs to Save Money

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-09-23 09:30

You’ve heard all the statistics right?

Ninety percent of startups fail.

Out of all the statistics we hear every day, this is the one that all entrepreneurs remember, isn’t it?

It’s something we all worry about.

One of the main reasons why businesses fail is because they lack the capital necessary to build their business. Simply put, they don’t have enough money to keep their businesses going.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re making the best uses of your resources. A large part of your success is dependent on your ability to save money.

In this post, you will learn some helpful tips that will help you save more money so you don’t become part of the 90 percent.

Cost Savings Ideas for Entrepreneurs Take Care of Taxes

Entrepreneurs lose tons of money because they’re overpaying on their taxes. As a matter of fact, 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs are overpaying on their taxes. This is incredibly important. Managing your tax strategy the right way is essential to your efforts at saving money.

The key is to make sure you’re taking advantage of every deduction you can. Also, you need to ensure that you’re complying with tax law. This is extremely important. The last thing you need is to get into trouble with the IRS. This could end up costing you tons of money.

The best thing to do is to seek the guidance of a tax professional who can give you the advice you need to make sure you’re lowering your tax liability and staying in compliance with the IRS. Sure, it may cost you money to hire a CPA, but it can keep you from losing even more money due to costly mistakes.

Get Rid of Your Debt

What would things be like if you didn’t have to pay so many monthly bills? How would things be if you could free up that money and put it into your business?

Debt can suck up tons of money. That’s why it’s imperative that you eliminate as much debt as possible.

One of the best ways to deal with debt is to not have it in the first place. If it’s possible, you should try to bootstrap your business. This can help you avoid the burden that debt can be. If you can’t bootstrap your business, you might consider taking on an investor. Depending on your type of business, this might be a better alternative for gaining funding.

If you already have debt, there are some things you can do to reduce it.

One of the ways you can attack your debt is to find a way to make some money on the side. You are an entrepreneur, right? If you can find a way to make some extra money without taking up too much of your time, it can help you get rid of your debt.

You also want to create an effective budget for your business. When you have the right budget, it makes it easier to chip away at your debt while making sure that you’re still managing your other expenses.

Also, if you’re like 44 million other Americans, you probably have student loan debt. As you already know, student loan debt can be quite challenging for entrepreneurs. If you are trying to eliminate your student loan debt, you might want to consider refinancing or consolidating it.

Stop Wasting Time

You’ve heard it said that “time is money,” right? Of course you have. It’s true. Every entrepreneur knows that every hour of their time is precious. That’s why you can’t afford to waste it.

Time management is a skill that will save you tons of money if you master it. Effective time management enables you to make sure that you’re always making the best use of your time.

One of the best ways to save time is to use tools that can make you more effective. Here’s a list of tools that can help make your life easier as an entrepreneur. These tools can help you save time and be more effective at carrying out your duties.

Clyde Kim, CEO of 2Crave knows the value of using tools to free up time.

“My business keeps me pretty busy all day and night, so having the right tools helps me automate many of the functions that would take up too much of my time. If you’re building a business, it’s essential that you’re making the best of your time and there are plenty of tools out there to help you manage your days more effectively.”

You also might want to consider outsourcing. Yes, I know it may be counterintuitive. After all, how can you save money by spending it?

However, it’s something you should consider if you want to maximize your earning potential. After all, the more time you are able to put into growing your business, the more money you will make, right? There are plenty of affordable ways to outsource. If you can find room in your budget, you should consider outsourcing some of the tasks that take up your time.

Cover Yourself Legally

Saving money means taking proactive steps to make sure you don’t lose money. Many entrepreneurs shy away from dealing with the legal side of running a business. That’s a mistake.

It’s a mistake because you need to make sure you’re protecting your business and yourself. And there’s only one real way to do this. You’re going to have to hire an attorney. Yes, I know — nobody likes dealing with attorneys. But if you deal with a reputable attorney, you will be doing yourself a huge favor.

Corporate attorneys can bring tremendous benefits to your business. The advice of an experienced attorney can help you avoid making mistakes that could open you up to a lawsuit. It can also help you stay away from accidentally breaking the law.

Yes, you will have to spend some money. But avoiding costly mistakes is well worth the expense. It only takes one silly mistake to bankrupt a business.

Choose the Right Suppliers

Supplier relationships are important. If your type of business requires you to purchase resources from various suppliers, you need to make sure that you’re buying from the right ones. Choosing the right suppliers isn’t always easy, but if you do it the right way, you can get better terms and better pricing.

Of course, it isn’t just about choosing the right supplier to work with. You also want to work on building positive relationships with your suppliers. Positive supplier relationships can result in better service and pricing. It’s a great way to make sure you’re saving money.

Conclusion

If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to save money. The better you are at cutting costs and mitigating your expenses, the greater chance you have at succeeding.

If you implement the tips given in this article, you will be in a much better position to achieve your business goals.

Saving Money Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Best Ways for Entrepreneurs to Save Money" was first published on Small Business Trends

8 Ways to Protect You and Clients from Financial Fraud

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-09-23 08:30

The predicament unfolding at Wells Fargo where 5,300 employees were fired due to phony bank accounts opened to “boost their sales figures and make more money” is not new in the financial world.

Unscrupulous practices have occurred for years in varying degrees.

In 1985, a just-fired employee at a New York-based commercial bank stood in front of his former co-workers to explain how he siphoned money from several bank accounts to which he had access.

The explanation was not to teach other employees how to do the same, but rather, done while the former employee was flanked on either side by his former supervisor and a security guard, it was a warning to workers that such theft would not go unpunished.

Working alongside those employees as a management assistant gave me front-seat access to a situation I did not know was possible until hearing the details.

Wells Fargo’s dilemma provides small business owners with vital lessons to keep financial accounts secure and relationships with clients strong.

Financial Fraud Protection Tips and Tricks For You

1. Make time each month to reconcile your financial accounts. Even if an accountant is privy to your records, it’s imperative that you personally review statements in a timely manner.

2. Access your credit report every year through the free service, AnnualCreditReport.com or through another preference. Such review won’t help you detect fraud that occurs between yearly audits. However, you will still see details that may negatively impact finances.

3. Set up alerts through mobile banking, and that includes a password on your cellphone that prohibits access to financial records if your phone is lost, misplaced or scanned.

4. Install apps such as Dasheroo and PowerWallet on your cellphone to know what’s coming in and going out of your bank accounts. Most apps are accessible on your computer and tablet so there’s no excuse for not taking action at a moment’s notice.

For Clients

1. Send a letter of assurance by mail and email whenever mismanagement occurs in your industry. You’ll receive praise for reaching out in times of crisis whether it’s stated verbally or acknowledged silently. Send the notice in both formats to ensure notification.

2. Call clients by phone to back up mail and email notices as additional security to strengthen client trust and value in your service.

3. Save notifications that you receive from other industries to re-structure alerts sent to clients. This is helpful if you have difficulty writing copy and do not have staff or an on-call writer to create the content.

4. Become an ally by notifying clients each time disruptions come to light in industries that impact them. For example, if you are not in the financial industry, notification about Wells Fargo and pointing clients to an online article that helps them detect fraud positions you as a valuable and reliable connection.

Which of these internal checks and client-based services will you pursue tomorrow?

Financial Security Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "8 Ways to Protect You and Clients from Financial Fraud" was first published on Small Business Trends