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5 Lessons for Growing Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 17:30

There’s exciting news for those of us who love small businesses: the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that nearly 14 percent of working age Americans are now either starting or running new businesses. That’s a record high for this study since it first began 16 years ago.

Small Business Week runs the first week of May to promote and honor America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. After all, small businesses are the engine of the U.S. economy. According to data from the SBA, roughly two-thirds of all new jobs in this country are thanks to small businesses. And while it’s important to formalize this recognition with an official week, it’s equally important that we support small businesses throughout the year.

As a serial entrepreneur and someone who has helped tens of thousands small businesses get off the ground, I’ve come to appreciate one thing about small business ownership: starting a business may be hard, but scaling that business up can be even harder. That’s why I’m sharing some of the key lessons I’ve learned on how to grow your business and take it to the next level.

How To Grow Your Business 1. Focus On Your Brand, and More Branding

No matter how small your business may be, it has a brand. You may not have a marketing department or outside branding agency, but your business certainly has a brand. This is the emotional attachment that connects your customers to your product, service, and company. And it’s this emotional attachment that keeps your customers coming back more than pricing or any other strategy.

How do you want people to feel when they think about your company and product/service? How is your company inspiring its customers or creating other positive memories? Think deeply about these questions. Then, make sure that every aspect of your company — from your website to products, advertising, and employee policies — reinforces the brand image you want to portray.

2. Dedicate Blocks of Time to Work on the Business

There is a great article on Small Biz Trends offering solid tips on “How to Work ON Your Business, Not IN it“. When you’re running a business, you can keep yourself busy every second of the day. But busyness doesn’t necessarily equal success: in other words, just because you’re working around the clock doesn’t mean you’re driving your business forward.

If you are constantly focused on the day-to-day tasks and reacting to every request, email, or issue, it means that no one is actually working on building out the business for the long term. That makes it very hard to grow from where your business is right now. Set aside time in your schedule to work on getting new business and your company’s long-term strategy. Some choose to work only on new business deals every morning until 11 am; others schedule Friday afternoons or Monday mornings. Pick whatever time works for your schedule and stay disciplined: focusing on the future is the only way you can grow.

3. Surround Yourself with Great People

Small business owners are used to wearing all (or at least most) of the hats in their business. However, a successful company requires a team, not just one person. With only one person responsible for each decision or activity, there’s only so far your business can scale. Consider some of the tasks you could hand over to contractors, employees, interns, and even family members. Try delegating some of your major pain points first; this will free up your time to focus on the important stuff.

One word of advice. When small businesses start growing, owners often feel compelled to bring on a senior employee from a big company with an impressive resume. While this specific expertise can help in some cases, you should be hiring for smarts, work ethic, and culture-fit with your business rather than fancy words on a resume.

4. Invest in Your Legal Foundation

If you started a business without a clear growth strategy in mind, you may not have been thinking about a legal business structure. If you didn’t designate a structure, then by default, you’re operating as a sole proprietor (one owner) or general partnership (more than one owner). As you start growing, or are thinking about growing, it’s time to formalize your business structure — either by becoming a corporation or LLC (Limited Liability Company).

While there are several benefits to the corporation and LLC, the main advantage is that these structures help protect your personal assets. This means that if something should happen in your business (e.g. it gets sued or can’t pay its debts), then your personal assets can be protected and the responsibility falls on the shoulder of your business as its own entity.

5. Invest in Your Health and Sanity

A study from Bank of America found that managing a small business is twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner and three times as stressful as raising children. Furthermore, small business owners routinely skip free time, exercise, and other personal priorities in order to focus on the business.

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking care of yourself, while you’re taking care of your business. After a few debilitating panic attacks brought on by business stress, I’ve learned to make my well being priority number one. When I’m feeling stuck or down, I get to the gym. Exercising and listening to music are my reset buttons. Find what feeds your soul and schedule it into your calendar just like an important client meeting. Because running a business is an ultra-distance marathon, and you need to have fuel in your tank to keep going.

Kudos to those of you who are traveling the exciting road of entrepreneurship. I know how hard the journey can be, but the challenges are so worth it!

Do you have any great tips to share on how to grow your business?

Watering Can Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Lessons for Growing Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Pitney Bowes SendPro Offers Cost-Effective Shipping for Small Biz

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 15:30

Shipping and mailing products provider Pitney Bowes just launched a “first of its kind” shipping software called SendPro, that enables small businesses to utilize the same technology used by large companies to manage shipping, mailing and parcel payments but at a price that fits most small business budgets.

About SendPro Shipping Software

The SendPro shipping software solution is an online application that lets businesses manage U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS shipments from a single portal. Users can compare carriers and shipping options in one place, simplifying the shipping process.

The product was developed based on the results of a research study commissioned by Pitney Bowes that revealed a growing frustration among small businesses over the lack of shipping software options, which, according to the company, left “hundreds of thousands of users with outdated, downloaded client technology that only provided single-carrier information.”

The research highlighted the need for an integrated, cloud-based, multi-carrier platform to simplify the sending of mail, flats and parcels. From that, SendPro shipping software was born.

SendPro is part of the Pitney Bowes Commerce Cloud, a cloud-based software platform that provides access to solutions, analytics and APIs across the full commerce continuum. It helps clients identify customers, locate opportunities, enable communications and manage shipping and payments.

The SendPro shipping software solution is also available through the Windows Store and is included on the Windows 10 platform. Here’s a brief overview of the software and how it works:

SendPro Shipping Software Features

The SendPro shipping solution offers the following features:

  • Users can manage multi-carrier shipping online or from one of a series of devices;
  • Customers have access to the best rates available across carriers;
  • SendPro runs the full gamut of the shipping process, from addressing and label printing to comparing shipping options, package tracking and consolidated reporting;
  • Users can access via the cloud the information needed to select the best choice for each item based on service level and price.

“The Pitney Bowes SendPro family of integrated shipping, mailing and parcel receiving applications represents a breakthrough in convenience, simplicity and value much like the launch of the smartphone or the multi-function printer,” said Mark Shearer, executive vice-president and president, Pitney Bowes Global SMB Solutions, in a prepared statement.

“Businesses — especially small and medium businesses — are increasingly burdened by the growing complexity of sending parcels, flats and mail through multiple carriers with a variety of rate structures, service levels, and tracking and billing processes,” Shearer added.

According to Shearer, many smaller businesses lack the volume of parcels and mail or the resources to justify dedicated systems, or the personnel needed to optimize their sending.

“The SendPro solution takes the complexity out of multi-carrier sending and can be easily accessed through any smart device or through a new family of integrated shipping, mailing and parcel receiving systems,” he said.

SendPro integrates with the SendPro P Series — a digital envelope, mailing and shipping hardware system that includes a printer and scale — to manage multi-carrier office shipping and inbound package receiving capabilities more efficiently and with greater accountability.

SendPro Shipping Solution Purchase Options

The SendPro shipping software comes with two purchase options: individual and small office.

SendPro Individual. This option is ideal for those who only need one user account. Cost is $15 per month.

SendPro Small Office. Designed for offices that have multiple users (up to 50). Cost is $25 per month.

Except for the difference in user licenses, the features are the same for either option and include:

  • An interface that lets users send and track USPS, FedEx and UPS shipments from a single portal;
  • An address book that can pull recipient information from several different sources;
  • Package pick ups from the chosen carrier;
  • One-click access to account history for expense control and activity monitoring;
  • Discounts on shipping options and access to contracted rates.

For more information and to sign up for a 90-dayfree trial of the SendPro shipping solution, visit the Pitney Bowes SendPro website.

Image: Pitney Bowes

This article, "Pitney Bowes SendPro Offers Cost-Effective Shipping for Small Biz" was first published on Small Business Trends

Book The Best Seat In The House With Reserve for Restaurants

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 13:30

Since they launched in 2014, Reserve has always been known as a ‘dining concierge’ and now they look ready to do more as they recently unveiled two new tools: Reserve.com, a website for users to find restaurants and make reservations, and a table management software Reserve for Restaurants.

“Our table management system, Reserve for Restaurants, is built around a simple philosophy — technology should facilitate hospitality and not stand in the way of a restaurant’s relationship with its guests. Restaurants deserve a better reservations platform — one that they love, and their guests love, too. So we do a few things differently,” co-founder and CEO Greg Hong said in a blog post.

For $99 per month per location, restaurants can install the table management software Reserve for Restaurants.

The platform closely resembles OpenTable, but with marked differences. Beyond offering analytics, reservation capabilities and wait list management, the app does away with any additional fees such as cover costs for reservations made through the system. These are significant savings and Reserve adds that the savings could be anywhere between $0.25 and $7 per person.

Another distinguishing feature of the table management software Reserve for Restaurants, is its Salesforce-like capabilities that gives restaurateurs data on their frequent and loyal diners. The app doesn’t use information that customers provide Reserve’s system directly, but rather uses more organic means. This is a great benefit of the app, restaurants can now track things like what table diners prefer, favorite food and drinks, allergies they may have, visit history, and other preferences. It’s about providing a more hospitable experience for diners.

“Restaurateurs never need to say no to guests — if guests don’t see the time they want on the restaurant’s website or Reserve.com, they can always make a request via the Reserve app and the restaurant can offer alternate times or seating options, or place them on the waitlist,” Hong explained.

As a companion to the Reserve app, Hong also introduced Reserve.com — a new destination for finding restaurants and making reservations. The website offers users with details of more than 500 restaurant partners across the country. These partners are specially curated and selected based on their service, ambiance and food. Visitors can now sort and filter restaurants based on vibe, cuisine, neighborhood as well as by restaurants that offer Instant Bookings online.

Reservations made on the app or website are free for users.

This article, "Book The Best Seat In The House With Reserve for Restaurants" was first published on Small Business Trends

Avoid Sales Tax Surprises: 9 Point Compliance Checklist

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 12:00

There are now more than 11,000 sales tax jurisdictions across the U.S.

Complying with this complex jurisdictional matrix, each with its own set of rates, regulations and forms can be nothing less than a nightmare for smaller ecommerce businesses.

To make online retailers aware of the most important considerations, Small Business Trends conducted an exclusive interview, conducted by phone, with Chris Livingston, Director of Operations and Product Management at VertexSMB, a company that provides sales and use tax automation software for small to medium-sized businesses.

Livingston outlined the following nine considerations in this sales compliance checklist:

Sales Tax Compliance Checklist 1. Know Your Nexus

The most important compliance factor comes with knowing your “nexus.”

Nexus Defined

Nexus — also known as “sufficient physical presence” — is the term used to determine whether or not a business selling products in another state is liable for collecting sales or use tax in that state.

Nexus is required before a jurisdiction can impose taxes on an entity. Therefore, it is vital that ecommerce businesses know the states in which they have sufficient physical presence.

Determining where nexus exists can be tricky, but non-compliance can be costly, in the form of audits, penalties and interest.

What Constitutes ‘Physical Presence’

The physical presence nexus requires can include things like having office space, employees, a warehouse, affiliates, inventory or drop shipping from a third-party vendor in another state. In some jurisdictions, even having a billboard alongside the highway could constitute nexus, Livingston said.

“In the days before ecommerce, knowing your nexus was simple and straightforward,” he said. “You owned a local brick and mortar store where customers purchased products and paid the sales tax. Now, you must consider where your billboards are, the states where your salespeople live and where you have inventory.”

Click-through and Affiliate Nexus

With the onset of ecommerce, many states have passed “click-through nexus” and “affiliate nexus” legislation to impose taxes on sales made by online retailers.

According to an article on the Sales Tax Institute website, click-through nexus legislation typically requires that a remote seller “meets a minimum sales threshold in the state in question resulting from activities of an in-state referral agent.” The seller must be “making commission payments to the in-state resident for any orders that come about as a result of the click-through referral from the resident’s website.”

Affiliate nexus legislation typically requires that a remote retailer holds a “substantial interest in, or is owned by, an in-state retailer and the retailer sells the same or a substantially similar line of products under the same or a similar business name,” the article said.

2. Obtain Sales Tax and Business Licenses

Once sellers establish nexus, they need to obtain sales tax and business licenses.

“Nearly every state requires retailers to register or be licensed to collect sales tax,” Livingston said. “Once sellers decide their store has nexus in a given state, they will need to register to collect sales tax for that state.”

According to Livingston, each jurisdiction has its own method for obtaining licenses.

“Merchants will need to file different forms with the various jurisdictions,” he said. “Some require fingerprinting while others will use the seller’s social security number, for example. Also, because some licenses are renewable, merchants will need to stay on top of when renewal periods occur.”

3. Know the Tax Rates

To avoid over or under collecting sales tax, ecommerce businesses must know the correct tax rates in the states and jurisdictions where they have nexus.

Some states get so granular that the rate changes almost to the street level, Livingston said.

He cited one example of a business that had loading docks on two separate streets on different sides of the building, each with a different tax rate.

“The business had to stay constantly mindful on which dock merchandise was being off-loaded,” he said.

4. Understand Product Taxability Rules

Most items sold are considered tangible personal property (TPP) and are taxed at the standard sales tax rate. That is not always the case, however, said Livingston.

“Things can change when you get into product taxability,” he said. “There may be special rules around heavy machinery, for instance. It is considered TPP in some jurisdictions but, depending on its use, could be exempt in others, or taxed at a different rate.”

Livingston also pointed out that “Software as a Service” (SaaS) is actually considered a service for tax purposes and, depending on the location of where services take place, could have different tax consequences.

5. Recognize Difference Between Origin Vs. Destination

When it comes to intrastate transactions (those which occur within the same state), there are two types of jurisdictions: origin and destination.

Some states tax based on where the product originated while others tax based on its destination, according to Livingston.

“States such as Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Mexico charge tax based on origin,” he said. “For example, a sale that originates in Tempe (AZ) for a product sent to Scottsdale, will be taxed using the Tempe tax rate. Other states, such as New Jersey and Louisiana, determine the tax rate based on where the invoice lands. It’s not synonymous across the board. ”

6. Maintain Exemption Certificates

Sellers can issue exemption certificates to a purchaser for various reasons, including resale, 501c3 status, products used in the manufacturing process or used in farming.

“The seller must request and hold that certificate on file to prove the reason for not taxing a transaction,” he said. “Different jurisdictional rules exist around that. Buyers need to store and maintain the certificate in the event they are ever audited.”

Livingston also mentioned another area where tax exemptions exist: enterprise zones.

“An enterprise zone is a geographic area designated as a special exemption for economic advancement, such as building a new mall,” Livingston said. “In that case, exemptions serve as incentives to get businesses to come in.”

7. Charge Proper Tax Type

Sales tax (intrastate transactions) and seller’s use tax (interstate transactions) can differ, so it’s important to know the type of tax being charged.

“Different transactions require different tax types, either sales tax or seller’s use tax,” Livingston said. “Sales tax relates to intrastate transactions and may have one rate while seller’s use tax, which relates to interstate transactions, could have another.”

Based on the tax type, merchants have to charge the correct rate and complete the proper form when it’s time to remit the tax.

“Merchants can sometimes use the same form for both tax types but may have to use different forms, depending on the jurisdiction,” Livingston said. “It’s important that they file correctly, to avoid penalties and interest.”

9. Know the Risk on Returns

“There are sales tax-specific returns, seller’s use tax specific returns and consumer use tax specific returns,” Livingston said. “Finding, using and properly submitting these forms is a daunting and arduous task filled with potential error and risk. Electronic filing and electronic payments just add more risk and work to the process.”

Livingston also pointed out that a customer who bought something from an online retailer that didn’t have nexus and failed to charge tax may be liable to pay consumer use tax on the purchase.

10. Understand Audit Triggers

The last item on the list has to do with audits, something no ecommerce merchant wants but, according to Livingston, will have to undergo at some point. As such, retailers need to understand what type of actions trigger an audit.

“A significant percentage of exempt sales, large changes (increase or decrease) in sales tax and late filings can all trigger an audit,” Livingston said. “It’s not a matter of if you get audited but when. The tax man cometh.”

Livingston advised small ecommerce businesses to work with a trusted tax advisor — either a CPA or sales tax expert, to gain a better understanding of the compliance process.

“Sales tax compliance is a very complex issue that requires the help of someone with know-how,” he said. “Merchants would be wise to get advice from a trusted advisor.”

Print out this sales compliance checklist to keep the most important considerations top-of-mind:

Download it Now!

This article, "Avoid Sales Tax Surprises: 9 Point Compliance Checklist" was first published on Small Business Trends

Manage Payroll Effectively with Core Employee Solutions

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 10:30

Colossal overhead can be enough to kill even the most promising of small businesses – and staff-related costs tend to be one of the biggest culprits.

When starting up a new business, quite a few entrepreneurs will inevitably fail to budget in mandatory employee benefits like medical insurance. Worse yet, a lot of business owners are actually over-spending on these sorts of benefits.

Firms like Core Employee Solutions are working to eradicate needless expenditures.

According to co-founder Christian Brim, clerical errors account for over four percent of the total costs that businesses spend on employee benefits. That means a small business with a health insurance bill of $5,000 per month could be losing around $2,400 every year in overcharges or missed employee deductions.

But health insurance isn’t the only place where companies are running into trouble with their accounts.

Typical errors include termed employees not being dropped from insurance coverage in a timely manner, rate changes not being adjusted in an employee’s payroll deduction or employees being given payroll deductions for benefits they aren’t even enrolled in. Business owners also often fail to communicate changes in eligibility status to their workers.

That’s why Brim and his Oklahoma-based team have launched a brand-new app designed specifically with small businesses in mind.

The Core Reconciler App Spots Errors, Saves Money

The Core Reconciler app is geared at businesses with up to 50 employees that provide any type of benefits to those employees. Planned integration includes payroll, time and attendance, 401k and various types of insurance.

Coming in at a cost of just $1 per active employee per month, the Core Reconciler app ensures employees are notified of their eligibility status changes, confirms that only eligible, active employees are being covered and confirms all payroll deductions match the benefit invoices. Business owners are then sent alerts whenever the app spots a potential error.

“This app will save the employer money on employee benefits and maintain goodwill with employees,” Brim says.

“By making sure that the employee is getting all of the benefit coverage that they are entitled to, and not paying for something they didn’t receive, it not only builds trust with the employer, but saves them the potential legal problems of discrimination claims.”

This Core Reconciler app is only the latest development to come out of Core Employee Solutions.

Last year, the company launched its flagship Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, which allows business owners to review and manage all of their employee-related services under the same roof.

According to Brim, contemporary small business owners benefit hugely from consolidation – which is why the entire employer services industry is headed for this simple, one-stop-shop model.

“Virtually all of the other providers, large and small, are trying to do a one stop shop and provide all possible solutions to the small business owner,” he said. “We believe that the market is much better attuned to meeting those needs, while we will provide a place to integrate those individual solutions as well as provide additional value through custom features we develop.”

Image: Core Employee Solutions

This article, "Manage Payroll Effectively with Core Employee Solutions" was first published on Small Business Trends

Biz2Credit Ranks Top Cities for Small Biz by Revenues, Credit Score

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 09:30

What is the best city in America for small business growth?

According to a newly-released survey from Biz2Credit, it’s San Jose, Calif., which edged out New York City to achieve the number one ranking.

Biz2Credit, an online marketplace for small business funding, analyzed more than 55,000 businesses across the country in its annual Best Small Business Cities in America survey. To qualify for inclusion, businesses had to have fewer than 250 employees, less than $10 million in annual revenues and have been in operation for more than one year.

To determine the top cities for small business growth, Biz2Credit uses a weighted average that includes annual revenue, credit score, the age of business (in months), cash flow, debt-to-income ratio and the business owner’s personal credit scores.

The site crowned San Jose with the envious title of Best Small Business City in America because it scored in the top five in average credit score, average annual revenue, and Biz2Credit’s proprietary BizAnalyzer score, which takes into account local economic factors, such as operational costs and tax rates.

“There is so much money being made in San Jose and the rest of the Silicon Valley,” said Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora, in a prepared statement announcing the survey results. “Even non-tech companies are benefiting because they provide goods and services to technology companies. The overall growth in the region’s industries, including construction, logistics, restaurants and hospitality, owe their success to the booming tech sector.”

Arora cited San Joses’ GDP growth as another factor.

“At 6.2 percent, its GDP growth far outpaces the national GDP growth of 2.4 percent,” Arora said.

New York Finishes Second; Growth Likely in Miami

Although New York City led other cities in average annual revenue, it finished second due to the high cost of doing business, according to Arora.

“What prevents New York from achieving the top ranking, despite high average revenues, is the high cost of doing business, especially high rents, real estate and construction costs in Manhattan,” Arora said. “Because it is expensive to live in the New York metro area, salaries have to be higher for small firms to be competitive for talent.”

Other cities finishing in the top five include San Francisco, Miami and Los Angeles.

Arora sees Miami holding a unique opportunity for growth, thanks to the burgeoning relationship between the United States and its neighbor to the south, Cuba.

“Miami is thriving because of the construction boom and its growth as a tourist destination,” Arora said. “Additionally, it acts as a gateway to Latin America. If relations continue to normalize with Cuba, its strategic importance will only continue to grow.”

Top Cities for Small Business Growth in 2016

The Top 25 Cities for Small Business in 2016 are:

  1. San Jose, Calif.
  2. New York City
  3. San Francisco-Oakland
  4. Miami-Fort Lauderdale
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.
  7. Atlanta
  8. San Diego
  9. Chicago
  10. Seattle
  11. Portland, Ore.
  12. Houston
  13. Detroit
  14. Orlando, Fla.
  15. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.
  16. Dallas-Fort Worth
  17. Washington, DC
  18. Phoenix
  19. Denver
  20. Las Vegas
  21. Charlotte, N.C.
  22. Philadelphia
  23. San Antonio
  24. Indianapolis, Ind.
  25. Memphis, Tenn.
Top Cities by Annual Revenue

The Top 10 metro areas by Annual Revenue are:

  1. New York ($1,421,959)
  2. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. ($1,045,820)
  3. San Jose, Calif. ($801,064)
  4. Seattle ($702,693)
  5. Los Angeles ($612,415)
  6. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. ($606,833)
  7. Miami-Fort Lauderdale ($571,014)
  8. Chicago ($548,548)
  9. Washington D.C. ($547,296)
  10. San Francisco-Oakland ($535,998)
Top Cities by Age of Business

Philadelphia ranked first based on the category Age of Business (in months), followed by Memphis, Tenn., Riverside-San Bernadino, Calif., Orlando, Fla. and Charlotte, N.C.

Indianapolis, Ind., San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver and Detroit rounded out the top ten.

Of interest, Biz2Credit looked at 500 companies in Philadelphia that applied for loans and found that nearly 70 percent (336) came from start-up companies — a percentage much higher than any other city on the list.

“The growth of new businesses is a reflection of Philadelphia’s resurgence, particularly around the bustling walkable Center City district,” Arora said. “Center City is a hub for office and retail business, dining, arts and culture, entertainment, healthcare, education, hospitality and tourism. Philadelphia also benefits from its proximity to top schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, and Temple, which can provide entrepreneurial-minded talent.”

Top Cities by Credit Score

San Jose was first on the list when sorted by Credit Score, followed by New York, Chicago, Orlando, Fla., Miami-Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco-Oakland, San Diego, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., Los Angeles and Houston.

“Small businesses in areas where the technology sector is booming, such as San Jose, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, tend to have higher credit scores,” Arora said. “There is also a correlation between higher credit scores and businesses with longer tenure. Many of the cities in the top 10 were represented by longer operating businesses.”

View an infographic showing the survey results.

This article, "Biz2Credit Ranks Top Cities for Small Biz by Revenues, Credit Score" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Is The Definition Of Solopreneur

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 08:30

Finding the right job is a challenge today. Pay is not great, competition is tough and job satisfaction is low. All these factors are encouraging more people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. And one trend that has gained momentum in the past few years is solopreneurship.

But what is the definition of a solopreneur and how are solopreneurs different than entrepreneurs?

Definition of Solopreneur

A quick search on Google will tell you that the term solopreneur has been around for quite some time.

Macmillan dictionary defines a solopreneur as a business owner who works and runs their business alone. Going by this definition of solopreneur, about a third of the American workforce comprising freelancers and consultants fit under category.

Solopreneurs have an inherently entrepreneurial mindset, and they prefer single-handedly managing their business.

Solopreneurs are often criticized for not generating jobs for others. What critics do not take into account is that while solopreneurs may work alone, it doesn’t mean they don’t collaborate with other entrepreneurs. To give an example, a freelance writer may work closely with a designer on various projects. In this way, solopreneurs generate work for others.

Pros and Cons of Being a Solopreneur

Solopreneurship as a career is tempting for several reasons. To begin with, solopreneurs have the flexibility and freedom to choose their work. The work-life balance that solopreneurship offers is, in fact, one of the key factors behind its growing popularity.

Solopreneurship also works for those who want to be their own boss. By choosing to run their businesses single-handedly, solopreneurs avoid boardroom politics and other hassles that come with dealing with too many people. Solopreneurs call their own shots and are accountable for the business decisions they make.

In the present market scenario, solopreneurship is an idea worth exploring because demand for self-driven, skilled specialists is on the rise. There are plenty of opportunities that solopreneurs can consider to achieve success.

On the flip side however, solopreneurship is not for those averse to taking risks. While working alone as an entrepreneur, you may face challenging situations that demand patience and quick decision-making.

It’s also important to remember that as a solopreneur you will be on your own, without the support of your team members. You may face situations where you need to multi-task and do many jobs all at once.

Plus, a growing number of people are jumping on the solopreneurship bandwagon today, making it a really competitive place to be. To get business, you have to find new ways to set yourself apart and communicate your unique brand story. What special value do you bring? Why should your customers choose you over your competition? These are some questions you need to answer before you choose a career in this domain.

Solopreneurship is an exciting opportunity to consider also because there are some really fun ideas you can explore. With the right strategy and vision, you can get started in no time. You can find useful tips and advice on how to start your journey as a solopreneur in this article.

What is your definition of solopreneur?

Definition Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Is The Definition Of Solopreneur" was first published on Small Business Trends

Plastiq Lets You Pay a Bill — Just By Taking a Photo

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 07:30

While new digital financial solutions have changed the way we bank and pay our bills, there is still a large percentage of the population that prefers to use checks, brick and mortar outlets, and cash. But this doesn’t mean companies like Plastiq are not trying to sway this group and everyone else by providing solutions that can really simplify financial transactions.

The new Plastiq online payment service lets users make any payment regardless of recipient acceptance. With this platform, you can use your MasterCard, Visa, and American Express credit cards for almost all Plastiq payments.

But the wrinkle is that the new service helps you pay your bills by taking a picture or screenshot of an
invoice or ebill. Plastiq will then remind you of the due date via push notifications.

This feature is not new. There are many applications from financial institutions and other service providers that use the cameras of smartphones to deliver the same capabilities. For example, an application called Expensify gives its users the ability to capture receipts in this way.

One of the many financial institutions that also provides this feature is U.S. Bank.  Its Picture Pay was rolled out in 2013, making it one of the first banks in the U.S. to provide this option for its customers.

Plastiq Online Payment Service

But that’s not all. Plastiq processes card payments so recipients can accept them with electronic bank transfer or check. And the recipient you send the payment to doesn’t have to have an account with Plastiq to accept card payments submitted through its service.

Anyone that provides goods and services in the U.S. and Canada can receive money from someone that uses Plastiq online payment service, even if they don’t accept credit cards. The company charges a processing fee of 2.5 percent of each payment for the service, and if the payment is late for any reason, the company says it will cover 100 percent of the late fees incurred on that payment.

All you need to pay someone is their name, address, and email or phone number. This information is automatically saved as part of your archive chronologically and you can use it for a single or recurring payments.

The payments can be filtered by payee name, card brand and amount along with real-time status updates for specific payments at any time.

With security being one of the biggest hurdles to wider acceptance of digital payment systems, Plastiq has benchmarked its security measures with the same solutions used by major financial institutions and governments. This includes 256-bit Extended Validation (EV) Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption technology, certified Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance, user authentication and security scans by Trustwave.

The Plastiq online payment service platform goes beyond taking a picture of an invoice and making a payment. With busy lifestyles, especially among small business owners, keeping track of everything that needs get done can get overwhelming. As long as you capture the invoice you want to pay as soon as you get it, Plastiq will remind you, make the payment and archive the transaction for your records, all from your smartphone or computer.

You can download the free Plastiq app on iTunes.

Image: Plastiq

This article, "Plastiq Lets You Pay a Bill — Just By Taking a Photo" was first published on Small Business Trends

How Angel Investors Boost Their Returns

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 06:30

Sophisticated angel investors don’t finance early stage companies because they love technology, want to help entrepreneurs, to benefit society or any of the other things that the term “angel” might imply. They do it to make money.

For their startup investments to be worthwhile, the returns angels generate have to exceed the returns the investors could earn from investing in other assets — bonds, public equities, commodities, real estate, and so on.

Financial Returns From Angel Investing

The financial returns from angel investing are driven by a combination of five numbers:

  1. The price of the company at the time the investor buys shares.
  2. The probability that the company can be sold or go public.
  3. The price of the company at the time the business is sold to someone else.
  4. The number of times the company will need to raise money.
  5. The time period between buying and selling.

The best way to make a lot of money investing in early stage companies is to buy a company with a high probability of being sold or going public, where the price at the time the company will be sold will be high, where the time period between buying and selling is short, and where the initial price paid is low.

Successful angels boost their financial returns from angel investing by getting these elements right.

1. They Invest at a Low Valuation

The higher the price the investor pays going in, the lower the multiple on the investment at a given sales price. An investor who put money into a company at a $1 million valuation will make 20 times her money on a company that sells for $20 million, while an investor who put money into the same company at a $4 million valuation will make only five times her money. Avoiding over valuation is key part of ensuring high returns.

2. They Invest in Companies That Have a High Probability of Exit

The greater the odds that a company can be sold or go public, the higher the chances that an investor makes a return greater than zero on the investment. Companies in some industries – like computer software and ecommerce — and companies with certain business models have a much higher probability of acquisition or IPO than companies in other industries or with other business models. Focusing on those industries and business models improves investor returns.

3. They Invest in Industries Where Companies are Acquired or Go Public at High Multiples

The higher the ratio of share prices to underlying metrics of business performance, like sales or earnings, the greater the price that investors will tend to get when the company gets sold. Again companies in certain industries and with certain business models have much higher multiples on price. Focusing on those types of businesses improves investor returns.

4. They Invest in Companies That Do Not Need to Raise a lot of Capital Before They Exit

When companies raise money after an investor has put money in, the initial investor’s stake in the company is often diluted down, which reduces their return. Some types of companies, like software as a service businesses, can get to positive cash flow without much investment, while other types of companies, like medical devices, cannot. Focusing on businesses that do not need to raise a lot of capital boosts investor returns.

5. They Invest in Companies That Have Quick Outcomes

The longer it takes to get to an exit of a given value, the lower the investor’s return. Some types of businesses, mobile phone apps for example, either take off quickly or disappear, while other companies, like biotechnology businesses, won’t have an outcome for a decade or more. As long as the size of the returns are equal, concentrating on businesses that have quicker outcomes enhances returns.

Investor Folder Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How Angel Investors Boost Their Returns" was first published on Small Business Trends

Is the Daily Grind Resulting in Humdrum Results?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-23 05:00

A long list of have-to-do’s both personally and professionally, day in and day out, tends to dampen motivation. The second factor involved is your comfort level. Being comfortable prevents many from taking a leap forward. The question then becomes whether you are truly content and happy with where you are, or deep down, do you desire to move forward?

Dilemma

Each time a switch is made, there is a feeling of both excitement and overwhelm. It is exciting to anticipate being at a new level, but in reality there is the need to face a steep learning curve. This is in addition to continuing the feat of building a business.

The good news is that within a few months of determined effort, you should find yourself on more of an even keel and enjoying life. As a motivated individual and as time progresses, you will be ready to take on the next leap to learn more.

The future is a blank canvas, paint your vision today

The Key To Business Success

The key to business success is to know yourself well. There is tremendous stress in changing direction and it may affect relationships with those around you.

Consider these questions:

  • Are you bored; if so what will advancement do for your outlook?
  • Do you subconsciously dream about advancing forward?
  • Are you ready to put steps in place to make advancement possible?

As you begin to consider these questions, also be in tune with your mood. Should you find yourself feeling a tinge of excitement contemplating the idea of moving forward, this may be the signal that it’s time to chart a new course.

Before you create a plan of action there are a number of items to be considered.

  • Out of all of your experiences, which talent brings the most satisfaction?
  • How may you leverage this talent into something bigger and bolder?
  • Establish sound reasons as to why this new idea is to be approached.

Once the above has been figured out, it is time to create your unique plan of action. Will you build an entrepreneurial venture or do you have a good idea as to which companies will embrace your talent?

In either case, reflect on your complementary talent, strengths and motivation for making the change. The reasoning for this is that your unique story is the basis for building a sound personal brand statement to build upon for a strong branding program. It is your story that attracts attention of your intended employer or clientele and key to your business success.

Routine Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is the Daily Grind Resulting in Humdrum Results?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Events in Atlanta, New York, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale this Week

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-05-21 13:30

Small business events dot the map this week. From Atlanta, which of course hosts Digital Summit Atlanta to New York, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, events for small business owners and entrepreneurs seem to be happening everywhere. Other events include “Winning the Game of Business — Entrepreneur Night,” several HackerX events aimed at connecting tech talent with some of the most innovative companies, and “BizBash Five,” a South Florida expo.

Where you attend depends greatly on your location and, of course, your personal interests as an entrepreneur. But no matter what, you’ll be looking for the whole small business schedule for this week and beyond to make up your mind. 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

Digital Summit Atlanta
May 24, 2016, Atlanta, Ga

Join us for the ultimate digital marketing and strategy event in the south! If you’re involved at all with online marketing, digital strategies or web creative – this is a can’t miss event.

DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award
June 14, 2016, Washington, DC

The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam’s Club®, celebrates the success of small business and honors its contributions to America’s economic growth. The Small Business of the Year, 7 regional finalists, and 100 Blue Ribbon winners will be honored on June 14 during America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. There are two ways to participate: 1. Nominate a local small business that’s making a big impact in its community. 2. Apply directly if you are a small business that’s committed to your community, employees, and customers.

Small Business Market Expo & Job Fair
August 27, 2016, Atlanta, Ga

Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with small businesses, market your organization and tap into a network of entrepreneurs, service providers, financial organizations, business coaches, and franchises.
#SBMExpo
Discount Code
VIP (25% off)

More Events More Contests

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

Orlando Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Events in Atlanta, New York, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale this Week" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Ways to Use Technology to Better Your Business

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-05-21 12:00

Technology offers plenty of opportunities for businesses to make things like marketing and managing a team easier. But with so many different tech tools out there, it can be difficult to even know where to start. For tips on utilizing technology to better your business, check out the list below from members of our small business community.

Achieve Better Business Performance With Wearable Tech

Wearable tech products, like Fitbit products and the Apple Watch, are gaining popularity among consumers. But they can also have legitimate applications in a business environment. In this SBA post, Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell explains a bit about why wearable tech might be able to positively impact your small business.

Use Twitter to Steal Customers from Your Competitors

You likely already know that Twitter can be a great tool for promoting your products and services to potential customers. But you can actually get even more specific with it to target the right customers and grow your business. Michael Akinlaby explains more in this post on the Social Marketing Fella blog.

Don’t Fall for These Bogus Social Media Beliefs

To effectively use social media for your small business, you need to stay up-to-date with all of the latest trends and techniques. That means that you can’t fall for the bogus beliefs listed in this Strella Social Media post by Rachel Strella. You can also see discussion surrounding the post over on BizSugar.

Measure Reader Engagement and Loyalty Using Google Analytics

Google Analytics isn’t just a great tool for measuring website traffic. You can use some of the features to actually get an idea of your reader engagement and customer loyalty, as Neil Patel details in this post.

Keep Up With Instagram Trends

Instagram recently got a whole new look. But the actual functionality hasn’t changed – yet. In this post on The Social Media Hat, Mike Allton discusses the possibility of future Instagram changes that could impact business users. And BizSugar members discussed the post further here.

Use Video Production to Market Your Business

Online video is a growing marketing tactic for businesses, even those that aren’t based completely online. In this Optimize Worldwide post, Marlene Slabaugh explains why video production can benefit small businesses.

Read These 30+ PPC Blogs

Blogs can be amazing sources of information for all different aspects of running a business. The blogs listed in this post by Amy Bishop on the Clix Marketing PPC Blog all focus on providing information about PPC. BizSugar members shared thoughts on the post here.

Know These Social Media Facts

Social media is always changing. So it’s important that you know all the latest data about the platforms that you use for your business. This SteamFeed post by Mandy Edwards includes some social media facts that you should know right now.

Use Facebook Video to Engage Your Audience

Social media and video content can both be great methods for interacting with potential customers. And you can actually have the best of both worlds by utilizing Facebook’s video feature to engage your audience, as Monique Craig details further in this RightMix Marketing post.

Take Advantage of These Gmail Tips

Managing your email can be a time consuming task. But with the Gmail tips explained in this Process Street post by Vinay Patankar, managing that crowded inbox can seem a bit easier. For more commentary on the post, check out the discussion on BizSugar.

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.

Business Tech Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Ways to Use Technology to Better Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Top 10 Benefits of Switching to a Cloud-Based Phone System

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-05-21 09:00

As small businesses change and grow, the ability to quickly scale up — or down — becomes a necessity. Adding new employees, for example, requires the company to adapt its phone system to accommodate the need for more lines.

That is harder to accomplish using traditional on-premise telephony systems due to higher setup and maintenance costs, the need for hardware on-site and reliance on IT support. A cloud-based phone system, on the other hand, would enable small businesses to manage communication services in a less costly, more streamlined and agile manner.

The following points, gleaned from an email exchange between Small Business Trends and Aaron Charlesworth, VP of product marketing at Vonage, outline the benefits that small businesses can accrue by switching from traditional PBX systems to cloud-based VoIP technology.

Benefits of a Cloud-Based Phone System 1. Fully-Integrated Communications System

A report from the research firm Gartner points out that integrating a company’s communications with its everyday applications for business processes and workflows helps increase efficiency.

Business tools that operate in the cloud are easy to deploy, enabling employees to stay connected whether they are in the office or on the go. In this way, the cloud provides a consistent business presence and helps to increase productivity with seamless access to CRM tools, email, instant messaging, voice and videoconferencing.

2. Control Over Modes of Communication

A cloud-operated system puts businesses in the driver’s seat, allowing them to pick and choose what features they need, with access to turn them on or off easily.

Also, cloud solutions give employees anytime, anywhere access via a smartphone, desk phone or softphone to all their calling features. Even better, they can have real-time access to their critical business software.

3. Top Line Business Features

A cloud-based phone system would give small businesses access to the types of network applications that one would typically find at larger corporations. These include features such as a Virtual Assistant, Auto Attendant, Never Miss a Call or Call Center solutions.

4. Mobility and Ease of Use

Today’s workplace is increasingly mobile, and small businesses especially need to be able to operate from multiple locations.

With a cloud-based system, small business employees have access to features that allow them to log in from anywhere so that they can be reached while on the go, giving customer-facing and revenue-producing employees greater control over their productivity.

5. Time Management and Efficiency

Web-based customer portals enable IT staff to manage their system more efficiently. With insight into the installation, service configuration, trouble tickets, training, billing and call analytics, this full access to a customer’s system and account allows them to spend fewer resources on project management and focus more on work that adds to the bottom line.

Also, cloud solutions can easily integrate with other cloud-based applications, providing mobile employees access to all the features and functionality they need to work just as efficiently as if they were in the office.

6. Flexibility to Scale Up (and Down)

As a business grows, so does the need to hire new employees, open new offices and onboard new customers. This requires a communications system that can scale up — or down — as the need arises.

With a cloud-based phone system, businesses can add as many extensions as they need to accommodate heightened call volume, or, if necessary, simply call in to deactivate these extra extensions. Unlike traditional systems, businesses only pay for the extensions they need for as long as they need them.

7. Business Continuity

Working with a phone system “in the cloud” allows businesses to remain connected to their customers no matter the environment. A cloud-based communications system is likely to be unaffected by outside factors such as severe weather or other issues that may keep employees from getting to the office.

With a cloud-based system, businesses can maintain a consistent presence — and access the tools needed — to keep things running smoothly.

8. Improved Customer Service

With the Virtual Receptionist (VR) or Auto Attendant feature, businesses can easily direct calls to various departments and even create greetings unique to a given department.

For example, a business could set up a holiday greeting in advance (via the administrative portal) and pre-set it to revert to the non-holiday greeting on a specified date. It could also add an on-hold message about special promotions or commonly asked questions.

9. New Service Features Added Easily

During busy seasons, some businesses will add premium calling features to increase call-taking efficiency and maximize staffing. Call Groups, for example, allow incoming calls to ring on multiple extensions.

Call Queues provide a “dynamic waiting room” for callers that let businesses customize the on-hold experience and better manage call volume. Both help to decrease voicemails, missed calls and busy signals, enabling service to as many callers as possible.

10. Cost Savings

Cost savings are another benefit of cloud-based phone system.  Moving telecommunications off of PBX platforms and to the cloud can be less expensive relative to monthly service rates versus that of a traditional system, helping to reduce costs and, ultimately, increase profitability.

Cloud Phone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Top 10 Benefits of Switching to a Cloud-Based Phone System" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Competitive Advantage

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-05-21 07:00

The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage, according to Roland Smart, is about ushering a new “Age of the Marketer” complete with a new purpose and toolset. Specifically, the book discusses how marketers can get ahead of the trends through collaboration, flexibility, and a powerful shift in mindset.

What is The Agile Marketer Is About

Marketers, according to The Agile Marketer, are facing an increasingly complex and evolving marketplace. On one side of this marketplace, you have customers who have more control, more options, and less time. On the other side of the “marketing department”, which is often tasked with reaching out to these customers with a myriad of constantly evolving tools (often with little to no help from other departments).

In short, there is a big gap between where marketing is and where it could be.

It’s why marketing is so hard in the “Age of Customers” in the first place. Technology, globalization, and attitudes are all changing the ways marketers and customers interact. While many books have attempted to make sense of those, most stick to one of two solutions:

1. Focusing on vague concepts like “engagement”
2. Attempting to prove ROI through numbers (aka metrics).

Unlike the above options, The Agile Marketer says marketers need to change their process in order to survive. The specific process the book endorsed is the Agile process, an approach adopted from software development that focuses on incremental changes based on feedback, collaboration, and flexibility.

Using the Agile marketing approach, marketers don’t focus on broadcasting their message to the largest audience possible, as in the past. The goal is customer nurturing using technology and products that are fine-tuned for efficiency. The key is having marketers with cross-functional support and a deep knowledge of current and prospective clients. In this scenario, marketing serves as a bridge to customers, rather than a byproduct, of product development

Roland Smart breaks all of this down into a marketing context through the book demonstrating how a company can adopt the Agile approach and a particular specialized approach within the Agile framework known as Kanban.

Roland Smart is the current VP of Social & Community Marketing with Oracle after serving in executive-level businesses (some of which he founded) and board member for several topics related to marketing.

What Was Best About The Agile Marketer

The best part of The Agile Marketer is the new approach offered by marketers in a rather confusing environment. As noted above, most books focus on either vague concepts or metrics as the key to marketing success. The Agile Marketer book argues that neither metrics or enhancing your engagement isn’t enough. Businesses need the right process (in this Agile) to make use of customer data and drive engagement.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

The book does a rather thorough job of breaking down how a business could implement Agile processes in their business. That being said, the book isn’t a beginner’s guide to using the Agile approach. Rather it is a discussion of the key components and rationale for using it.

In other words, Roland Smart makes the case for using Agile. He doesn’t detail how to tailor it a reader’s specific needs.

Why Read The Agile Marketer

If you are a marketing executive who wants to improve the efficiency of your marketing team, The Agile Marketer will introduce you to the philosophy and need for an adaptive and customer-oriented marketing approach rather than a “Let’s just make funny cat videos and hope someone clicks on our link” approach. The Agile Marketer provides a strategic alternative that will work with books like Hooked: How to Create Habit-Forming Products or The Three-Box Strategy: A Strategy for Leading Innovation. If you ever wanted to see how continuous innovation would look on a day-to-day level, this book might provide some guidance on the approach to get started.

This article, "The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Competitive Advantage" was first published on Small Business Trends

LinkedIn:100 Million Now Affected by Release of Data from 2012 Breach

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-05-20 16:02

LinkedIn is advising some 100 million users reset their passwords after data from a 2012 breach of the social network surfaced earlier this week.

In 2012, the platform fell victim and LinkedIn was hacked in an attempt that compromised millions of accounts (6.5 million to be exact), exposing members’ passwords and publishing them online.

LinkedIn assured its members at that time the compromised passwords were not published with their corresponding email logins and that the vast majority of passwords remained encrypted, although a subset was decoded.

It also conducted a password reset campaign for the affected accounts and advised all members to change their passwords.

All was well — until this past Wednesday, May 18, when LinkedIn made this announcement on its official blog:

“Yesterday, we became aware of an additional set of data that had just been released that claims to be email and hashed password combinations of more than 100 million LinkedIn members from that same theft in 2012.”

According to the post, LinkedIn is taking “immediate steps” to invalidate the passwords of the impacted accounts. The company said it will contact users who need to reset their accounts. LinkedIn also affirmed that there was no indication that this was the result of a new security breach.

If your account was affected, you will need to reset your password. Also, it’s not a bad idea to enable a two-step verification, a feature that LinkedIn provides, to better ensure the safety of its members.

These are steps all LinkedIn members may care to take, regardless if they fell victim to the breach or not.

For more information on protecting your password, refer to this Small Business Trends article, LinkedIn Security Breach: A Reason to Change Your Passwords (At Least!).

Image: LinkedIn

This article, "LinkedIn:100 Million Now Affected by Release of Data from 2012 Breach" was first published on Small Business Trends

CloudMagic Creates Sender Profiles from Recent Emails

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-05-20 15:30

Popular search-focused email client CloudMagic has added a useful feature to its service. The feature known as Sender Profile was specifically created to aid those who receive lots of email from people they don’t know. Similar to services like the newly launched Connect from Clearbit for desktop email or LinkedIn’s Rapportive, CloudMagic email app allows users to quickly view a summary of information about the individual who sent the email, including their location, job title, social profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook as well as their place of work.

CloudMagic eMail App Tells You “More”

Cramming all this information into a mobile email client application can be difficult, given the small amount of space available on the screen. Therefore, instead of trying to present all of the sender’s information on the screen, the application displays a more subtle notification. When you receive an email from someone you don’t have in your contacts list or someone who hasn’t emailed you before, Sender Profile subtly places a small summary below the email message. If you want to know more about the person, click the “Know More” link and a pop up card will appear with more details about the sender.

In addition, the feature allows you to access the sender’s profile at any time by tapping on their contact picture right from your inbox.

CloudMagic eMail App Keeps You From Being A Stalker

CloudMagic says that it created this feature because it takes too long to stalk someone using social media. The company says that Sender Profile will save you a solid 10 minutes of searching per email.

Another CloudMagic email app feature small business users might find interesting is its email integration that allows users to attach or save emails and files directly to their favorite productivity apps.

Both the email integration and Sender Profile are possible features for businesses that receive lots of emails on a daily basis. Sender Profile isn’t free though, as users have to part with $24.99 per year. The beauty of it is that it will work on all your devices — Mac and mobile.  It also works with Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, Exchange, Google Apps, iCloud and all IMAP accounts.

Image: CloudMagic

This article, "CloudMagic Creates Sender Profiles from Recent Emails" was first published on Small Business Trends

Google, GoDaddy Announce New Online Services for Businesses

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-05-20 13:30

You can already find just about any type of product or service to help grow your business online. But even so, there are new products and services coming out pretty much every day.

Recently, Google, GoDaddy and others announced new services and features that could impact small businesses. Read about those headlines and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Online Services Google Channels Pinterest with Saved Images

Back in November 2015, Google dove into the world of Pinterest-esque photo bookmarking, allowing users to save photos and organize them in folders directly from their mobile browsers. Building upon this service, Google recently announced that it was bringing the Pinterest-like service for saving photos, articles, and other online content to the desktop.

GoDaddy  to Acquire FreedomVoice, Provide Low-Cost Phone Service to Small Biz

Domain name registrar GoDaddy is reaching into the realm of small business communications with a proposed acquisition of FreedomVoice, a cloud-based telecommunications provider, announced Tuesday. The deal will cost GoDaddy $42 million in cash plus up to $5 million in potential future payments.

New Shutterstock PowerPoint Plug-in Provides Picture Perfect Design

Are you tired of creating boring PowerPoint presentations with bullet point-filled slides? Is it difficult to find high-quality images you can use to liven things up? If so, the stock photography site Shutterstock just may have a solution.

Amazon Sales Up 28 Percent But Web Services Might be the Real Story

Beating analyst expectations once again, Amazon has reported a 28 percent increase in sales in the first quarter of 2016. Revenues totaled $29.1 billion, compared to $22.7 billion in the same quarter the year before. The Amazon stock went up more than 12 percent following the big announcement that will silence many skeptics.

Yodel Acquisition Makes Web.com Subscriptions Jump

The decision to acquire Yodle has paid off for Web.com, as it reported a strong first quarter of the year. The web services company now has approximately 3,423,000 total net subscribers, up 70,000 from the end of the fourth quarter of 2015. This includes nearly 53,000 subscribers from the Yodle acquisition.

Economy Bernie Sanders on Small Business Issues (In His Own Words)

Bernie Sanders may be to Hillary Clinton what Exaggerator was to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, but he remains a dogged contender for the presidential nomination despite the delegate count. For that reason, Small Business Trends felt it would be appropriate to share what Sanders has to say about small business issues, in his words, in the unlikely event he gets elected.

New Office of Small Business Advocate Contemplated for SEC

Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that will create an Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Micro Businesses Love Independence, Worry about Cash Flow [Survey]

Ninety-four percent of independent workers love the control that independence provides, but 67 percent say their top concern has to do with inconsistent income in their micro businesses.

Employment What Jobs Are Small Businesses Hiring Most?

A lot of the jobs small businesses are looking to fill across the country are primarily the same as those larger companies are working to fill, too. There are some places where small businesses can actually be competitive when hiring, according to data from Indeed. Indeed has identified the top 10 jobs being filled by small businesses nationwide.

Retail Trends eBay Valet Program Lists, Sells and Ships Products for You

Even though ecommerce sales grew at 14.6 percent year over year in 2015 to a grand total of $341.7 billion, it still accounted for only 7.3 percent of total sales. The segment has a long way to go before it catches up to brick and mortar stores, which is why companies are continuously trying to integrate both worlds so consumers can shop without much differentiation.

Get out the Decanters, eBay Wine Is Now Online

The $15 billion wine industry is a very lucrative one, which is now growing even more because of the increasing number of middle class in developing countries around the world. This fact obviously hasn’t escaped the notice of online commerce sites, and as one of the leading companies in the sector, eBay has launched ebay Wine to capitalize on this growth.

Shopify Quarterly Results Ride High On Mobile Sales

Riding high on mobile phone orders, ecommerce company Shopify has started the year with a bang. The Canada-based company beat analyst forecasts and posted better-than-expected results. In the first quarter of 2016, Shopify’s total revenue grew 95 percent year-over-year to $72.7 million.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Rufus Labs Focuses on Wearables for Businesses

The wearables market has been gaining a lot of attention lately. But the majority of the products are aimed at individual consumers who just want to own even more cool mobile gadgets. But Rufus Labs decided to focus its wearable product, the Rufus Cuff on a different type of consumer — businesses.

Social Media How To Use Facebook Chat Bots to Market Your Business

You’ve heard about bad bots and the havoc they wreak for website owners, but the Facebook chat bots just launched for its Messenger app are the good kind. Facebook is opening up its Messenger platform in beta to allow chat bots into the application. These bots will let businesses deliver more services for their customers through the developer and business ecosystem of Facebook.

New and Improved Instagram Allows Longer Videos, More Ads

Instagram recently announced that it will soon roll out video carousel ads. This will allow advertisers and business owners to share up to five separate videos with one single purchase. Instagram allows longer videos as each of the videos can be up to a minute.

Technology Trends WebmasterRadio.fm Relaunching as Cranberry.fm After Buyout

Cranberry LLC, a content marketing and amplification platform that provides native content distribution to improve customer engagement, announced recently it has acquired WebmasterRadio.fm and is re-launching the award-winning online radio and podcasting network as Cranberry Radio (cranberry.fm).

Oh Brother: New Printers Offer Color for Nickel a Page

Small office and home office (SoHo) businesses face two big challenges when it comes to printing: the high cost of buying ink and the inconvenience of running out when ink is needed.

Sprint Global Wireline Business Unit Launched

Today’s modern workforce has to operate without the limitations of geography, time and device,  software or hardware. This means the resources an employee needs have to be available no matter where they are, day or night, or on what device. Greater compatibility and flexibility are part of a growing collaborative environment.

Print Photos From Instagram With Epson Creative Print App

More than 400 million people now have an efficient and effortless way to wirelessly print photos from Instagram thanks to the newly released Epson Creative Print App. “Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms among Millennials, and Epson now allows users to directly create and print their Instagram masterpieces with the enhanced Creative Print app,” Epson America Inc. senior marketing director Nils Madden said in a press release.

Is Talking Cat Collar Catterbox Purrrfect For Pet Owners?

After thousands of years of curiosity, cat owners can finally learn the innermost thoughts of their feline companions thanks to the invention of the world’s first cat interpreter. Launched by scientists at The Temptations Lab, the “Catterbox” collar uses a microphone and speaker in order to record, process and translate a cat’s purrs, hisses, and meows into human speech.

Image: Google

This article, "Google, GoDaddy Announce New Online Services for Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Cindy Bates of Microsoft: Business Intelligence Will Be Transformative for Small Business

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-05-20 12:00

It’s been five years since we last spoke with Cindy Bates, Vice President of Small and Midsize Business for Microsoft. With so many developments taking place in that timespan, we were excited to catch up with Cindy and hear her thoughts on what have been the biggest small business developments of the last five years, and also see what she feels will be the biggest development of the next five years.

Business Intelligence Will Be Transformative

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Small Business Trends: As you think back over the last 5 years, what’s been maybe the biggest thing that’s happened, particularly when it comes to small businesses?

Cindy Bates: I’ve been at Microsoft in 16 years and have seen kind of the full arc of the transition, of what we call the SMB technology revolution. My team and I wake up every day focused on helping the millions of SMB’s in the country grow and thrive, leveraging today’s powerful and affordable technology. If I look back over the 5 years since we last connected, I remember we talked about the early emergence of cloud computing. At that time, it was a relatively new concept. We had the Office 365 just coming out of Beta and talked about tremendous potential for, really, impact productivity for small businesses. I would say what’s interesting is it is the same topics that were emerging 5 years ago that are still totally relevant. It’s the depth and the understanding of the cloud by SMB’s that’s really changed tremendously.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a small business owner who isn’t familiar with the cloud, who isn’t using it to share documents, house their email. Interestingly, Techaisle, which is a research firm, sites 96% of small businesses saying the cloud is their top IT priority. So many great stories. I recently connected with Mike Holwick, a former CPA and Marine, who took over his family’s business, Holwick Construction. Just a great example of how transformational technology is.

His business had been growing tremendously but he was spending about 20% of his time managing all the office stuff. Not a great use of his time. I think lots of small business owners can relate to that, wearing lots of hats. He actually moved his business to the cloud with Office 365 and has seen just such a transformation. He tells us that he now has a full 12 hours extra a week, because of what technology’s done for him, that he’s putting toward driving his business. He thinks that’s generating about $2 million extra in business. Five years has really been night and day in the adoption of cloud computing.

Small Business Trends: When you think about that adoption, is it being driven by looking for efficiencies and productivity gains or is it also being driven by trying to connect with customers and prospects in a more meaningful way? To not only create customer relationships but also extend them, create longer, more fruitful relationships?

Cindy Bates: It’s absolutely all of the above. It’s productivity, it’s connecting with customers. One of the other big trends we’ve seen is the explosion of remote working which ties to productivity but also opens up so many opportunities to really tap into the best of the best when small businesses are hiring. This stat actually floored me; Techaisle says that 21 million employees of small and midsize businesses work from home at least three times per week. That’s a worldwide stat but I’d say about half of that is U.S. It’s a great trend because it lets business owners, no matter where they are, find the best employees.

We’re talking over Skype right now and, with the click of a button, Skype allows employees to connect with IM, high definition video and really shrink geography. Skype Translator lets you actually break down language barriers where you can have automatic voice translations in 7 languages and IM in 50. Just tapping into this diverse talent pool. Not only geographically dispersed but also Millennials, a big trend obviously. They are very focused on collaboration, which technology obviously opens up.

One of my favorite stories of technology transforming businesses and enabling remote working is a company called Mom Corps. It was founded in Atlanta where actually I think is where you are located if I’m not mistaken.

Small Business Trends: Absolutely.

Cindy Bates: Allison was an executive with a Fortune 500 company. She wanted a little bit more work-life balance. She was a CPA. She started doing freelance work and realized that she had such an untapped opportunity of professional women who are wanting to pull back a little bit when they’re raising their kids and this huge demand from companies. She’s started a company called Mom Corps which has now grown nationwide. They have only 40 employees but they have a hundred thousand women working to provide services to, for the most part, larger companies. What I love is the entire company is managed remotely. There’s no office building. It’s just really fascinating to see what technology like Office 365 can do.

Small Business Trends: How do you think video is going to shape the next two years when it comes to small and midsize businesses and their ability to grow their business?

Cindy Bates: I think it’s going to open up all angles, whether it’s using video to hire if people aren’t locally based. Using videos to connect with customers and suppliers. It shrinks the world. I use video all the time. I have a team across the country. About half of them are in Seattle and half are remote, so to speak. We use video conferencing with Skype all the time. It shrinks the world.

Small Business Trends: When you think about what’s ahead, are there certain technologies or certain things that are going to be prevalent, making small businesses succeed, that we aren’t even looking at right now?

Cindy Bates: Yeah, I think a great example right on the emerging trend of where we were 5 years ago with Office 365 and productivity is business intelligence. Just a great example of how even the smallest businesses now have access to the same technologies as large companies. I’m sure your audience has heard of business intelligence. Kind of a buzz word right now but so important for what it really can do to transform businesses, large and small. It’s all about taking your business data, whether it’s how much money you’ve made on a certain product or a certain service, how much you sell during peak times and using that information to form meaningful insights to help drive your business forward. It may be that you see your shipping costs are skyrocketing. You can think about how you might change your distribution strategy and use UPS Regional shipments.

B.I. is going to be really transformational, letting small businesses uncover buying patterns. The tools that used to be so expensive and complex are so simple today. Tools like Microsoft Power BI let users just easily pull in information, visualize it, offer up interpretations. Really powerful technology but I think it’s kind of right on the cusp of exploding.

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about what Microsoft is offering small businesses today?

Cindy Bates: I would direct those to our website. Tons of resources there.

This article, "Cindy Bates of Microsoft: Business Intelligence Will Be Transformative for Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Issuu Streamlines Digital Magazine Production with Collaborate

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-05-20 10:30

Digital technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, and the workplace is no exception. One of the things that technology has done in the workplace is bring people together no matter where they are, making collaborative solutions a critically important technology for the way we work moving forward.

The new Collaborate platform from issuu gives users in the digital publishing space a place where they can come together, whether they are across the desk from each other or on the other side of the planet.

Established as a digital publication platform, issuu has simplified and democratized publishing so anyone can create their own magazines, catalogs and newspapers and find an audience.  The company’s platform is used by the biggest brands in the world, but it also gives individuals the same access to its 100 million plus monthly readers.

Collaborate Editorial Tool

The Collaborate editorial tool has been designed to bring some semblance of order in the chaotic world of publishing from start to finish. One of the biggest issues facing periodicals is globalization, which requires using talent from many different parts of the world. According to issuu, Collaborate streamlines your publishing process by bringing all of your contributors and workflow together in one place so you can create digital content more efficiently.

With Collaborate, editors, contributors, ad sales and anyone else in the pipeline will be on the same page when new assignments are given, assets are gathered and deadlines have to be met. And it all happens in a single platform that can be accessed no matter what system or device you are using, thus eliminating issues of compatibility that hinder collaborative efforts.

Collaborate begins with a flatplan. In this flatplan you can create the layout of what you are going to publish and invite users to start participating by uploading images or adding their own content. The approval system gives you control of every action that is being taken by the participants as materials are developed and revised.

The platform also provides integration with Adobe InDesign, so you can download articles and ads for layout as well as uploading final design files for preview and approval.

While not all publications cover global events with resources from disparate locations, the process of publishing a magazine or newspaper requires a solution that brings every piece of information together so it can be readily available. Collaborate does this in one central hub, giving media teams of any size access to tools for producing quality digital publications.

Founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2006, issuu is now used by more than 25 million digital publications covering every imaginable subject under the sun from 2.5 million publishers. In March of 2016, the company announced shut-down of its Targeted Distribution Service. In responding to the article, issuu CEO Joe Hyrkin said this move is not affecting the growth of the company.

Hyrkin went on to say:

“We’ve had a host of vibrant product updates and releases including issuu shopping links, new ways to view content within a Twitter stream, updated our iOS app and Android App, overhauled our publisher’s home page and expanded to new offices in Berlin with launches of several major products over the next two-three months.”

The Collaborate editorial tool is available on issuu’s Optimum plan, but you can try it for free for 14 days. The pricing and plans are available as Free, Plus, Premium and Optimum. The paid plans are $26, $35 and $235 per month respectively.

If you are going to create digital magazines with Collaborate or any other type of publication, please let us know how it has improved your workflow and the way you collaborate with all of your contributors.

Image: Issuu

This article, "Issuu Streamlines Digital Magazine Production with Collaborate" was first published on Small Business Trends

Is Your Retail Marketing Email Campaign Driving Your Customers Crazy?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-05-20 08:30

A targeted retail marketing email campaign is a great way to bring customers into your store and build customer loyalty for your retail business. But are your retail marketing emails having the opposite effect from what you intended? If you’re sending emails too often, a recent survey cautions, you could be driving customers away.

Retail Marketing Email Bombards Us

The average consumer subscribes to 2.3 retailer email lists, according to First Insight, which polled consumers about their email habits. But even with that small amount of subscriptions, the average consumer gets 13.1 emails per week from those retailers. And some consumers (6 percent) get a stunning 40 emails per week from retailers. Now, I love a good sale as much as the next shopper, but even I think that’s too much!

How many retail marketing emails is too many? While just 21 percent of consumers who get five retail emails a week think that’s “too many,” two-thirds of those who get six or more retail emails a week say that’s too many.

When you send daily email to customers, you’re bound to experience diminishing returns. In fact, consumers in the survey say they open just one in four retail emails that they receive. No wonder, since respondents say 95 percent of retail emails they get are “not at all relevant” to their needs and interests.

More than eight out of 10 survey respondents say the plethora of irrelevant emails is a sign that the retailers they patronize don’t really understand them. As a result, nearly half say that they’ve unsubscribed from a retail email list within the past six months.

Retail Marketing Email Best Practices

So what do customers want from your retail marketing emails? Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Limit the number of emails. More than six out of 10 consumers surveyed say their favorite retailers send just one or two emails per week. When your emails are infrequent, they’re more likely to be perceived as special and will get more attention.
  • Personalize your emails and offers. Use data you collect about shoppers’ past purchasing behavior to create customized offers aligned with products they have purchased in the past. For example, if a customer consistently buys children’s books from your bookstore, send them emails about children’s books — not about self-help or spirituality. There are retail loyalty apps you can use that collect information about customers’ purchases, or you can go the low-tech route and offer customers different email subscriptions to choose from. For instance, you could offer customers the choice of getting emails about specific product categories, in-store events, or general special offers (there may be some customers who like getting every single email your store has to send, so give them that option.)
  • Avoid sending generalized emails. Four out of 10 survey respondents say they would go out of their way to buy from a retail store that doesn’t send them irrelevant email offers. Sending an email that just promotes a sale at your store without personalizing it to customers’ interests is today’s equivalent of taking out a print ad in every publication you can think of. Just as with print advertising, you’ll get better results from narrowly targeted emails.

Sending targeted and timely retail marketing email remains one of the most effective ways to drive retail traffic — but only if you use them wisely to show customers you understand them.

Emails Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is Your Retail Marketing Email Campaign Driving Your Customers Crazy?" was first published on Small Business Trends