The Franchise Owner's most trusted news source


Log In / Register | May 4, 2016

BBB Ratings Now Appear on YP Business Listings

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 17:30

If you browse for businesses using the Yellow Pages website or mobile apps, you may notice a small change in some of the listings. These listings on yp.com or the YP app now display A and A+ ratings and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau where applicable.

When searching or browsing YP’s website or app for a particular type of business, you can see right in the search results and listings pages exactly which businesses have received these top ratings. You can even narrow your searches to only include businesses with BBB ratings.

BBB Ratings on YP Business Listings

BBB ratings and accreditation have long been considered some of the most important seals of approval for small businesses. Having those seals can help customers make informed decisions. And they can also help quality businesses stand out from the competition through a trusted third party.

Stephan West of YP explained in an email to Small Business Trends, “For businesses that have earned an A or A+ rating (or BBB accreditation) displaying their rating provides an added level of recognition as a trusted business. Additionally, consumers are able use these ratings in their decision-making process and can easily click through to bbb.org to view information about complaints, customer reviews, licensing, government actions, and more.”

For Yellow Pages, having BBB ratings on YP business listings just seemed to make good sense. Since many people use it as a way to browse or search for local or independent businesses, it seemed like a natural place to add some sort of rating or accreditation system to give customers a better idea of what they can expect from each business.

And since the BBB is already such a trusted entity, and BBB ratings can have a big impact on both businesses and their customers, integrating that information into the online and mobile YP experience seemed like a win for all sides.

West says, “BBB has a well-earned reputation of providing unbiased ratings on local businesses, which act as a strong complement to user reviews. YP’s goal is to give consumers as much information as possible to help them make a well-informed decision, making this integration a natural fit.”

Image: YP.com

This article, "BBB Ratings Now Appear on YP Business Listings" was first published on Small Business Trends

Freshdesk Responds to Feedback, Rolls Out New API v2.0

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 15:30

The focus of IT no longer only within the enterprise. It has now shifted to a wider ecosystem by opening up its data to developers so they can create new experiences for customers. And application programming interfaces (APIs) are proving to be the foundation for the digital transformation that is currently taking place.

The new Freshdesk API v2.0 has been enhanced to simplify the development process and improve the way developers use it so they can have a better experience.

Freshdesk API v2.0 Rolls Out

According to the company blog, the new improvements Freshdesk has made to its API eliminated fields that were not necessary, as well as getting rid of redundant messages, boosting the rate limits, improving pagination, error handling and more.

An API is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. A good API lets developers create solutions by providing all the necessary building blocks so they can put it together with new functionalities.

As a cloud-based customer service software provider, Freshdesk has more than 70,000 customers, including many global brands, such as Honda, 3M, Cisco, Hugo Boss, Toshiba, UNICEF, University of Pennsylvania and others. With such a range of industries, the company is always looking to improve the way these organizations interact with their customers. And APIs are one way of making this possible.

Here are the new features and changes to the previous API as published by Freshdesk:

  • Higher rate limits as a result of significant performance enhancements,
  • Improved error handling — errors will return appropriate HTTP status codes and an error body,
  • Four new API categories — Business Hours, Products, Email Configs, and SLAs,
  • New APIs that enable you to Reply to a ticket and enhancements to existing APIs that enable you to Update a ticket’s description, Update a ticket’s notes, and Retrieve a list of tickets that have been recently modified,
  • XML Support that has been deprecated, with only JSON supported,
  • Calls limited to only SSL (HTTPS),
  • Operations limited to Freshdesk domains and not via custom CNAMEs,
  • Support for page sizes up to 100,
  • New API deprecation and breaking change policies,
  • Some categories renamed for consistency with the Web application. (For example, Forums are now Discussions and Users are now Contacts.)

Being competitive in today’s digital ecosystem means not working in isolated silos. In the past, this approach has resulted in heavy expenditure in R&D and long time to market for new products. With APIs exposed to the outside world, the possibilities of innovation by developers become limitless.

The new Freshdesk API v2.0 is going to deliver more access for developers with the goal of introducing new and groundbreaking solutions for its clientele as they seek to improve the way they engage their customers. And as social media continues to command more attention as part of the overall customer service companies provide, APIs will become an integral part in finding said solutions.

Image: Freshdesk

This article, "Freshdesk Responds to Feedback, Rolls Out New API v2.0" was first published on Small Business Trends

Staples Introduces Facebook Messenger Chat Feature

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 13:30

Staples Inc. has announced it has teamed up with Facebook to enable Facebook Messenger functionalities on its mobile website. This simply means that Staples mobile users will now be able to use Messenger for customer service interactions.

Staples mobile customers who are interested in the service can now sign up to chat with sales and customer service specialists for post-sales support and any other form of shopping assistance.  Users will also be able to opt-in to receive personalized updates, like payment, confirmation and shipment notifications. This instant form of assistance will definitely save many business owners time as they get their questions answered quickly and at minimal cost.

Staples Using Messenger Chat

“Staples customers are increasingly turning to Messenger to interact with our brand, and by adding these capabilities, we’re making it easier for them to connect with us and keep tabs on their order whenever and wherever they want,” the executive vice president of global e-commerce at Staples Inc. Faisal Masud said in a press release. “We see Messenger as another extension of our omnichannel offering, letting businesses leverage the power of our e-commerce, social media and customer service capabilities to have the best shopping experience possible.”

The chat feature was only available on Staples mobile site at launch, but plans to roll it out to desktop and tablet users were already in place.

To fully integrate the Messenger platform with its mobile site, Staples partnered with Powerfront, a cloud-based customer engagement solution that provides businesses with all the technology they need to sell more products, attract more prospects and manage their brand online.

Staples.com and Staples retail stores help small businesses make more happen by providing easy ways to shop, expanded business services and a broad assortment of products at competitive prices. They also offer businesses the convenience to shop any way they want — on mobile, through social apps, online or in store. The company has over 2,000 stores worldwide.

With Staples using Messenger chat on its mobile website, customers will have an easier time making mobile purchases in the future.

Image: Staples

This article, "Staples Introduces Facebook Messenger Chat Feature" was first published on Small Business Trends

Sensoria: Inside The Business of Wearable Tech

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 12:00

Disruptive technologies are all about challenging the lifestyle boundaries that guide us as consumers. These innovations thrust us into the unknown, redefining our daily routines to establish new markets the world never even knew it needed — and no disruptive technology has evolved faster than wearables.

Over the last five years, demand for this fusion of cutting-edge technology, fashion, design and healthcare innovation has completely and utterly exploded. By 2018, analysts reckon the wearable technology market will start bringing in an estimated $8.3 billion per year.

Market pioneers are already reaping the benefits of that growth. Researchers at Gartner are forecasting 274.6 million wearable devices to fly off the shelves in 2016. Yet the sector has rapidly moved beyond your average, run-of-the-mill smartwatch.

Companies like Sensoria have got far more dynamic innovations in mind.

Sensoria Wearable Tech

Sensoria Fitness is one of the wearable industry’s fastest rising stars. Established in late 2010 by some of Microsoft’s leading minds, Sensoria has already redefined the potential of athletes across the globe via its cutting-edge textile sensors.

With the aid of a custom-built app, Sensoria’s sleek smart socks, sports bra and fitness t-shirt enable coaches, professional athletes and amateur enthusiasts from all walks of life to track an unprecedented amount of data whilst working out. Sensoria wearable tech is award-winning and can help break down someone’s running technique, tell them more about their heart rate, pace, cadence, stride and how well they exercise.

Yet according to cofounder and CEO Davide Vigano, Sensoria’s innovative take on wearables extends far beyond basic analytics.

“Smart garments are becoming the new standard in the fitness industry,” he says. “The technology serves to not only generally track fitness and health metrics, but data collected can be used widely for self-improvement and potentially for injury prevention.

“We felt that there was an opportunity for the sports apparel and fashion industry to reinvent itself through technology, so we set out to create an integrated family of smart garments that behave like a biometric sensing computer that feels natural with elegant, cool looks.”

Vigano and his team have certainly got a wealth of experience within the technology industry. Having spent over two decades heading some of Microsoft’s most successful divisions, Vigano ultimately settled as the General Manager of its Healthcare Solutions Group. There, he presided over the multinational’s diverse HealthVault range — which includes market-leading brands like Fitbit and SINOVO.

Since launching Sensoria, Vigano has been able to develop these concepts further still — helping wearables to evolve far beyond the sector’s current mainstream offerings.

“What we wear is an expression of who we are,” he says. “Personally I have no appetite to wear more hard plastic or metal on my body beyond my wrist to gather data and quantify myself. The wearable devices should disappear to the human eye and get woven into the fabric of our clothes and our lives.”

With that in mind, Sensoria wearable tech now bases its offerings on the vision that “The Garment Is the Computer” — that the garment itself should replace the clunky plastic of a wearable device.

“What differentiates us from all the other wrist-based wearable products out there isn’t just the novel data we are able to capture and the accuracy of our step counter or cadence monitor, but rather the fact that our sensors are fully embedded into the garment itself and nearly impossible to detect by the naked eye,” Vigano says. “Basically, we ensure our stuff fits seamlessly into our customers’ lives. They don’t even have to think about it.”

That mission certainly rings true with consumers. Sensoria has already earned itself a gaggle of accolades and endorsements that have helped solidify its market position within the up-and-coming wearables sector. Yet more impressive still are the partnerships Sensoria has forged in order to continue rolling out innovative products on a regular basis.

Last year, Sensoria teamed up with racing experts at Renault to construct a ground-breaking racing suit for professional drivers. And Vigano and his team kick started 2016 by unveiling a new joint initiative with Microsoft that will provide soccer teams with an unprecedented level of analytical opportunities using sensors in each player’s cleats to collect data about their performance.

That being said, Sensoria certainly isn’t limiting the potential of its technology to only professional athletes.

Although the company’s products provide clear implications for professionals and coaching staff, early critics have argued the dizzying level of data Sensoria’s smart garments collect may not be quite so useful in the hands of everyday athletes.

Vigano dismissed the claim by pointing out just how simple Sensoria’s innovative garments are to use.

“Our system can be extremely beneficial for professional athletes, coaches and trainers, but we designed the products with everyday athletes in mind,” he says. “It provides a lot of data, but it is all useful data that can be used in real time and after analyzing post-workout feedback. The system informs runners not only how fast and how far, but also how well they run.”

Yet even as Sensoria works to improve the lives of amateur and professional athletes, Vigano and his team are keen to prove that Sensoria’s technology has far greater ramifications for the wider world.

In 2015, the company teamed up with healthcare giant Orthotics Holding Inc. to deliver a pioneering product designed to assist the 14 million Americans aged 65 or older who experience a fall each year. Dubbed the Moore Balance Brace, the device uses Sensoria’s technology to help clinicians detect patient adherence, activity levels, time on the ground when they’ve fallen and future center of balance shifts.

Sensoria is also working with a start-up in Maine that’s been using their Sensoria Developer Kit to offer an innovative solution for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Smartphone app upBed connects to Sensoria’s smart sock to detect when a patient leaves the bed, and immediately notifies caregivers via text message. It also tracks a patient’s sleeping patterns, and uses Bluetooth to keep up to three individuals in the loop at all times.

Yet according to Vigano, Sensoria and its ever-increasing army of industry-leading partners have only just scratched the surface concerning the technology’s implications for the healthcare sector.

“We’ve got even more in the works, stuff that could aid in rehabilitation after a stroke or post-surgery — with the ultimate goal of speeding up overall recovery time,” he says. “The possibilities are endless.”

So long as the wearables sector continues to sail along its current trajectory, Vigano seems absolutely right. Experts are forecasting the overall market for wearable technology to reach $31.27 billion in the next four years. In the short-term, that growth will likely be driven by increasing sales of ordinary smartwatches and first generation plastic wearables.

Yet in the long-term, Sensoria wants to drastically expand that market by redefining what consumers should expect from the so-called Internet of Things.

“Our long term goal is to become the standard ingredient of wearables, but we want to take it a step beyond that,” Vigano says. “Thanks to our new Sensoria Core platform we are more of an ‘Internet of Me’ company that can IoT enable any garment versus a wearable device company.

“If you start from that idea and just assume that every single garment has the capability to become a computer, then everything comes down from that. That is a big assumption, but it is happening today. We are selling products today that have that capability, so it can be done.”

Image: Sensoria

This article, "Sensoria: Inside The Business of Wearable Tech" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Business Book Awards: Time to Vote!

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 10:30

Voting for Small Business Book Awards is now open and will run through May 11, 2016, at 12:00 pm Pacific Time Nominations opened on March 2, 2016, and since then we’ve had nearly 200 business books nominated by the Small Business Trends Community. Over the last eight weeks, hundreds of you submitted the books that taught, moved and inspired you to grow your business and now we pass the baton over to the community.

Voting is Open for the 2016 Small Business Book Awards

You can see all of the books and resources that were nominated by clicking on “Search” in the navigation bar. Or click on “Categories” select the category you want to see and browse around.

How to Vote

To vote, simply visit the Business Book Awards site and click on the red VOTE button. You can also click on the “Categories” tab and select the categories you’d like to see. We have six categories; Motivation, Social Media, Startup, Marketing, Management, Economics, Technology and Resources. Then simply click on the “VOTE” button for the books you would like to vote for.

You Only Need to Vote Once During the Period

You can vote for as many books as you like and you only need to vote once for each book during the entire voting period. For more details, check out the rules page.

Support Your Favorite Books with Comments

You can also leave your support comments and feedback for any book using Facebook comments. Leaving a Facebook comment will not only show your support, but will give the community additional information and support for your favorite books.

How the Winners are Chosen

There will be two kinds of winners for the Small Business Book Awards; Community Choice Winners and Judges Winners. The Community Choice winners are those books that received the most community votes. The Judges Winners are chosen by our esteemed panel of expert judges who will make their choices based on their area of expertise and review of the books.

Winners Announcements

The Community Choice Winners will be announced on May 11 and the Judges Winners will be announced on May 19, 2016. Follow the voting and awards on Twitter on #BizBookAwards and @BizBookAwards for the latest updates.

Voting Is Open For The 2016 Small Business Book Awards

Voting Is Open For The 2016 Small Business Book Awards – Vote today!

Image: Small Business Trends

This article, "Small Business Book Awards: Time to Vote!" was first published on Small Business Trends

How x.ai, the AI Powered Personal Assistant, Schedules Meetings for You

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 08:30


If I had to name the business task I hear the most complaints about, it would definitely be setting up meetings.

Apparently nothing is more tedious than the seemingly never-ending back-and-forth emails that continue until everybody finally agrees on a time and place.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone could handle that big ball of bother for you? Back in the day, you might have had a secretary do so however, in these current days of lean workforces, hiring a secretary to handle your meetings seems like a pipe dream.

At least it did until x.ai created someone who can handle it for you.

The AI Powered Personal Assistant x.ai

Yep, you read that right — x.ai created someone, or more specifically something, to handle the task of negotiating and setting up your meetings.

The thing of it is, when you use the AI powered personal assistant x.ai, it feels like you’re interacting with a real person.

Her name is Amy Ingram.

I’m not going to delve into the technology behind Amy in this post ’cause that’s a huge topic all of its own, one discussed in detail over on x.ai’s blog. Suffice it to say, Amy uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to read and understand the emails she receives so she can schedule your meetings.

Here’s a brief overview of how it works:

While that’s a.xi in a nutshell, it’s hard to really grasp how amazing Amy is without seeing a real-world example like the one below (click here to see more examples … ):

The awesome thing about the exchange above is the fact that it was conducted in everyday English. No codes or shorthand to learn — it’s like Amy is a real person who’s sitting just outside your office arranging the meeting.

Of course, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes here. For example, in the second step, how does Amy know where your office is? How does she know when you have openings in your schedule? Can Amy set up meetings in places other than your office and how will she know where they are?

The quick answer is that you can teach Amy all about yourself and your preferences. Let’s take a detailed look at that process.

How to Teach x.ai About You and Your Preferences

When you log into x.ai, you’ll be shown your dashboard:

As you can see, Amy shows you the current and pending meetings that she’s added to your schedule. Note that she will not show every meeting, only the ones she handled.

If you’d like to add a meeting to her schedule, even if she is not managing it, just shoot her an email:

The gray links below the meeting list provide access to the spots where you can set your preferences.

Your Preferences – Calendars

Currently, personal assistant x.ai integrates with Google Calendar only though the team behind Amy is, “working very hard on a full integration with Microsoft Exchange/Outlook calendars”.

Once you’ve given Amy permission to access your Google calendars, you can use the calendars preference screen to decide which ones will affect your schedule:

Not only can Amy use your calendars for scheduling, she can also utilize the calendars to which you’ve been given access (these are the grayed-out calendars under the horizontal line in the image above).

Your Preferences – Scheduling

The scheduling preference screen provides a great deal of flexibility in the way Amy handles your calendar:

Using the sliders above, you can set your availability on each day, in one block or any number of smaller time slots, including weekends. That’s right, x.ai can also be used to manage your personal life. One important note on this however: currently Amy does not know that weekdays are for work meetings and weekends are for personal meetings. x.ai recommended the following work around, “For now, don’t schedule availability on the weekends. When you do want to schedule a personal get-together, tell Amy something like this: ‘break my scheduling preferences and schedule this for Saturday, <insert date> sometime between 3pm and 4pm'”.

You can also set the default lengths for both live and virtual meetings as well as how much of a buffer you’d like Amy to account for both before and after each type of meeting.

This is also where you can set your personal time zone. What about the time zones of the other attendees? x.ai notes that, “Amy loves time zones. She speaks to each participant in their local time zone, understands what time it is for each participant so no silly suggestions are made, and she understands the concept of compromise when somebody in New York is to meet with a guy in Singapore (where no great time really exists for either party).”

One final note on scheduling: if you want to give Amy the leeway to schedule a meeting over another one on your calendar (e.g. a client meeting that would supersede an internal meeting), you can use the “Show me as” functionality built within Google Calendar:

Amy will see any meetings marked as, “Available” as free time during which she can still schedule other meetings.

Your Preferences – Emails

The email preference screen is where you tell Amy about the email addresses to watch out for when she schedules you. If an email does not include one or more of the email addresses listed here, she will not take action on your schedule:

Why would you use more than one email address? One example would be a work vs. a personal email address. Amy will always respond to the address you first used to send in each meeting request so it’s a good way to keep your lives separate.

You can override that preference however by using the form underneath the address list to set an email address as the one that Amy should always use no matter which one was first used to send in the meeting request.

Your Preferences – Personal

The personal preference screen is where you add your basic information. Amy will include this information in final meeting requests when appropriate:

As to the default meeting location, I’m going to cover that in:

Your Preferences – Locations

The locations preference screen is one of the handiest features in personal assistant x.ai.

This screen is the place where you let Amy know about all your favorite spots so she knows what you mean when you tell her to “Schedule Jim and I for coffee.” Here’s how it works:

First you need to enter in your office address. Now Amy knows where your office is when you tell her to “set up a meeting at my office”.

If you want to add another location, you can click on the “Add another location” link under the “Instructions” field to do so. At the bottom of the image is a list of the types of locations you can add, one per type:

In the image below, I’m adding the location where I prefer to have meetings over coffee. Once I type in Starbucks, Amy pulls up the closest ones so I can simply select the one I want or I can add an address manually:

Next, I’ll add a spot where I like to have drinks with my clients:

And there we go — I can now use the words “office”, “coffee” and “drinks” in my meeting requests and Amy will know where I’d like to meet and will let the other attendees know as well.

Powerful stuff here:

Finally, I can set a default meeting type. Amy will always use this type unless I specify otherwise in my meeting requests. Note that among the in-person meeting types, only the locations that I have added are available to set as the default:

What about virtual meetings? Here’s what x.ai had to say, “In regards to auto adding virtual location links, this is unfortunately not what we do today. It is something we are working on though. Currently, you just ask Amy to add a static Webex, Google Hangout link, etc.

Example: ‘Amy, please add the following Google Hangout link to invite: https://plus.google.com/hangouts/…’.”

Your Preferences – Updating Via Email

Finally, you can update any of your preferences simply by emailing Amy. Here’s an example:

Price

Currently, you can hire Amy for free by signing up for the x.ai beta on their home page. The company is currently planning to officially launch later this year, likely in the fall. At that time, x.ai will offer three subscription levels, each with their own feature set and pricing:

  1. Free;
  2. Professional; and
  3. Business.
Conclusion

You can learn more about AI powered personal assistant x.ai and Amy (such as how many people she can schedule in a meeting at one time — the current answer is five) over on their FAQ page.

While x.ai is young, the features and functionality already in place satisfy a strong need in the marketplace. Going forward, I only see tremendous potential as the solution matures.

As for me, I’m already excited about bringing Amy on board so she can manage my schedule. If you’re tired of setting up your own meetings, hire her yourself and see what she can do.

You won’t be disappointed.

This article, "How x.ai, the AI Powered Personal Assistant, Schedules Meetings for You" was first published on Small Business Trends

Everything You Need to Know About Procuring and Managing Working Capital

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 06:30

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I just had enough working capital, I could push my business in the right direction?” Well, the good news is that there are ways to bring in working capital from the outside and grow your business. You will need a strategy, though.

The In’s and Out’s Of Managing Working Capital

When looking at the health of a company, you can determine a lot by asking this one simple question: “How much working capital do you have?” The reason this question is so important is that working capital is a signal of a company’s operating liquidity. In other words, having enough working capital indicates that a company is able to pay for all short-expenses without tapping into other resources.

The amount of working capital your business has — to an extent — determines your credit-worthiness. If you have lots of working capital, you’ll be viewed as a stable and responsible business. If you’re running low on working capital, then there will be lots of question marks surrounding your financial situation.

How Much Working Capital Do You Need?

Every business needs working capital, but the goal isn’t necessarily to obtain as much working capital as you can. Having too much working capital may actually be an indication that you don’t have enough assets invested for the long-term. So, what’s the sweet spot — and how much does your company need?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to provide you with an accurate answer. So much depends on your current situation, growth goals, cash flow, profitability, and more. Look at your operating cycle and get a firm grasp on how long it takes to turn the revenue produced from a sale into cash that can be used to grow the business and pay off expenses.

If your operating cycle is longer than it should be, then you need an infusion of working capital. If your operating cycle is quite short, then you may only need a small amount of additional working capital to tide you over.

Based on your operating cycle and current financial situation, develop three sets of projections: conservative, moderate and optimistic. Review them carefully with a business analyst and then determine what you realistically need. You can then turn your attention towards obtaining working capital to meet your demands.

5 Ways to Obtain Working Capital

When it comes to obtaining working capital, there are a number of options. Understanding how these options align with your business is the key to leveraging the right opportunities. Here are a few common ways businesses procure working capital:

1. Bank Line of Credit

A line of credit is one of the preferred options for businesses looking to procure some working capital. While a line of credit is often hard for a new business to obtain, companies that are well capitalized by equity (and have good collateral) can sometimes qualify.

With a bank line of credit, businesses can borrow funds when the need arises and repay once accounts receivable are collected from the short-term sales period. A line of credit is usually extended for a year and is expected to be paid off within 30 to 60 days of the funds being used.

2. Private Line of Credit

A line of credit is ideal for businesses, but most won’t be able to receive them from a bank. They require stacks and stacks of documentation and months of processing. The good news is that there’s an alternative.

A private line of credit works much like a bank line of credit, but requires fewer hoops. Many private financers promise faster approval processes, limited paperwork and decisions that are independent of personal credit. In other words, you get the same benefits of a traditional line of credit, but don’t have to spend months filling out paperwork and tracking down documents.

3. Trade Creditors

Have you established good relationships with trade creditors? If so, it’s not unheard of for a business to solicit help in providing working capital for short-term needs. For example, let’s say you typically pay your creditors every 30 days. If you receive a big order that can be fulfilled, shipped and collected in 60 days, you may be able to obtain 60-day terms from your supplier.

In order to obtain working capital from a trade creditor, you’ll need to supply them with proof of purchase orders. It’s also not uncommon for the trade creditor to file a lien on it for additional security. However, if you’re confident that you can collect, there shouldn’t be any problems.

4. Factoring

One option that businesses often aren’t aware of is factoring. Under this option, you fill an order, and the factoring company buys your accounts receivable and handles the collection process. This option obviously comes with less control — and is more expensive than other techniques — but is often used by new businesses with no other alternatives.

5. Short-Term Loan

Finally, you may qualify for a short-term loan. This isn’t typically thought of as an option for obtaining working capital, but it can serve the same purpose when a line of credit isn’t extended. These loans are frequently given out to handle seasonal inventory buildup. It’s not the first choice, but is better than nothing.

Tips for Managing Working Capital

There’s a time and place for monitoring long-term financial goals, but businesses must pay attention to short-term working capital in order to be successful. This is why working capital management is so important.

“Proper management of working capital involves trying to achieve a balance between minimizing insolvency risks and maximizing the return on your assets,” serial entrepreneur Ajaero Tony Martins explains. “It is also advisable for you to take note of the fact that while the long-term analysis of your finances is mainly focused on strategic planning, the process of managing your working capital deals with daily operations.”

With daily operations and short-term goals in mind, here are some helpful tips for managing working capital in your own business:

  • Focus on forecasting. Cash flow forecasting is the key to effective management of working capital. Always take into account the unexpected and be pessimistic whenever possible. Unanticipated events will always arise and you’ll need a built-in cushion to sustain these issues.
  • Handle disputes properly. Disputes with customers can end up costing you a lot of time, which directly impacts your ability to pay off your working capital. Always have concrete procedures in place for how to handle disputes. Not only is this important for your financial health, but it also plays a major role in customer service.
  • Create contingency plans. Even with pessimistic forecasting and plans for handling customer disputes, there need to be contingency plans in place for other unexpected events that put your business performance at risk. Create contingency plans for anything and everything.
  • Send out invoices sooner. Having trouble tracking down payments? Try sending out invoices as soon as possible. While 30 days has long been considered the norm for payments, don’t rule out the possibility of instituting 15-day terms. These terms are becoming more commonplace and can prevent cash flow issues.

How you manage your working capital will determine whether or not you have access to additional working capital in the future. Keep these tips in mind and never let down your guard; successful management of working capital requires acute awareness.

Putting it All Together

As a business, managing working capital is critically important in the pursuit of growth and profitability. Unfortunately, it’s often challenging to efficiently procure and manage. Keep these tips in mind and begin implementing frameworks and strategies that allow you to maximize capital in the present and the future. Your business depends on it!

Funding Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Everything You Need to Know About Procuring and Managing Working Capital" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Is Essential Tech for Startups?

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2016-05-03 05:00

If you’re at the beginning of your journey to starting a business, it’s easy to get your head turned with all the shiny technology tools out there. You’ve just got to have a smartwatch! The biggest laptop! Or that top-of-the-line tablet. In reality… you don’t need most of that stuff. You can always grow your technology once you turn a profit, but start conservatively and only buy what’s going to help you launch and grow your business. Here’s a rule of thumb: ask yourself Why three times before buying any technology for your small business. Here’s some ideas on essential tech for startup and where to start.

Essential Tech For Startups 1. A Computer

It doesn’t really matter if it’s a laptop or a desktop, but consider your specific needs. Do you need to be mobile and have access to your documents and emails while having the functionality of a full keyboard? If so, a laptop might be best. Whatever you buy, be sure to get the three year crash and burn warranty.

On the other hand, if you will spend the majority of your time working at your desk, a desktop computer with a decent-sized screen may make you more comfortable while working.

Bonus Tech Tip: Pay attention to when a computer company is about to release a new product. This is an excellent time to snag last year’s model at a sizable discount, since stores will want to clear their older inventory to make room for the newest model.

2. A Credit Card Reader

If you plan to sell items in-person or online, you must accept credit cards. Doing so will make it easier for you to make more money, and it entices people who don’t carry cash to buy from you.

You’ve got a few choices here. The first traditional option is a larger card reader. This is the machine you swipe your card at every time you buy something at the grocery store. When you sign up for services with a merchant card processing company, they’ll likely offer you several options for this machine.

In reality, you might not need it. You can also manage quite well with a mobile card reader, which affixes to your smartphone or tablet and lets you run credit and debit cards and process them on your device. The reader is usually cheap or free with your card processing service.

Bonus Tech Tip: While you probably won’t need to ask (since it’s becoming the standard for card payments), make sure the card reader you get is EMV compliant. That means it can read the chip cards that you insert rather than swipe.

3. A Smartphone

I don’t know what I’d do without my smartphone. It lets me schedule appointments on the go (and remind me when I need to be somewhere), talk to clients and check my email. You can also access your cloud-based VoIP phone through your smartphone while you’re away from your desk. If you’re rarely in the office, your smartphone will be your personal assistant and best friend all wrapped up into one neat technology package. The good news is: you probably already have one. If yours is older and slow to load apps, see if you’re eligible for an upgrade. It’s worth it to shell out a little more for a highly-rated phone rather than automatically opting for the cheapest available

Bonus Tech Tip: Buy the insurance for your smartphone. You want to make sure you can get another one quickly if you ever lose or damage your phone.

4. A Tablet … or Hybrid Device

Tablets are fun, aren’t they? Don’t assume you need one, though. I’d say that businesses that are retail-based, such as a restaurant or spa, or a service business that needs to demonstrate their digital work, such as a design firm or architect, would best benefit from buying a tablet. They’re light enough to throw in your purse or briefcase, and are great tools to process credit card payments, place orders, or close business in a sales presentation.

Bonus Tech Tip: See if a hybrid device that is an tablet and laptop all-in-one could work for what you need. If you only need a tablet 10 percent of the time, this could be the best option.

Strategies for Smart Technology Purchases

I don’t care how badly you want a piece of technology — wait on the decision. Let it simmer and really consider your needs. Do you really need a top-of-the-line solution, or would a model from a generation ago do the job?

It can pay off hugely to look for sales and pay attention to pricing. As I mentioned, newer products make older ones more affordable. Also look for holidays (especially Black Friday and Back to School) when technology is marked down. And if you’re buying online, look for coupon codes to get free shipping or even a percent off of your purchase.

Yes, you need technology to run your business. Just be selective about what you buy initially, and plan to grow your collection as you grow your bank account.

Business Tech Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Is Essential Tech for Startups?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Business Marketing Tactics Revealed in Infusionsoft, LeadPages Study

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-02 17:30

In December 2015, marketing automation technology company Infusionsoft, along with LeadPages, a maker of landing page software, conducted a marketing tactics survey of more than 1,000 small businesses across the U.S. regarding their use of digital marketing and published the findings in the “2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report.”

The report created from the marketing tactics survey covered five main topic areas:

  • Goals and Priorities. What small business owners hope to achieve with their marketing in 2016;
  • Challenges. What small business owners are struggling with and seek to improve in 2016;
  • Tactics. What tools and techniques small business owners are trying out (and succeeding with) as they move toward their marketing goals;
  • Opportunities. What advantages small business owners can seize in 2016 that will help them reach their goals and get ahead of the competition;
  • Trends and Predictions. Trends that Infusionsoft and LeadPages predict will come to the forefront of small business marketing in 2016.

“We took our two companies collective knowledge and databases and put together a piece that had some solid research behind it, which we feel will be helpful for small businesses,” said Jake Johnson, managing editor at Infusionsoft, in a telephone interview with Small Business Trends. “The report highlights the fact that digital marketing is changing and that small businesses need to focus on these changes to achieve success going forward.”

Top Insights Gleaned from the Marketing Tactics Survey

Small business marketing can be a lonely job. Nearly half (47 percent) of small business owners handle marketing efforts on their own, the report found.

Digital marketing is far from universal in the small business world. One of the more surprising findings from the survey was that nearly one in five small business owners does not plan to use digital marketing at all in 2016.

Tracking the return on their marketing investment is a major struggle for small business owners. Nearly half of those surveyed said they do not know whether they are marketing effectively, and 14 percent know they aren’t.

“This is an analytics issue,” Johnson said. “Many small business owners don’t know what tools are available to them and how to properly set up and interpret their data streams.”

Following up with leads and customers is also a tough task. Twenty-one percent of small business owners don’t store contact information anywhere while only 24 percent use customer relationship management (CRM) software and 20 percent use an email marketing service provider. Forty-five percent don’t maintain an email list to which prospective customers can opt in.

“I would suspect that most small business owners are focused on a few tactics they’ve learned — social media postings, blogging, etc. — but don’t have an overall marketing strategy for executing their digital marketing tactics,” Johnson said.

Most small businesses still use a fairly unsophisticated digital marketing stack. Forty-one percent use only one or two software applications in their marketing, and another 26 percent use three or four.

About half of small businesses plan to invest more in their websites in 2016, and half plan to increase their web advertising budgets. But that doesn’t mean that analog marketing tactics are dead. About a quarter of small business owners plan to spend more on print ads or direct mail, and 14 percent will spend more on telemarketing or in-person marketing.

Fifty-eight percent of small business owners are using social media in their marketing, but less than half are creating any other kind of content to help them get leads and sales. 

Digital Marketing Goals and Priorities Goals

In 2016, small businesses say they plan to look at digital marketing primarily to meet goals at the top and bottom of the customer acquisition funnel. Fifty-one percent of respondents named “driving sales” as a top goal for their digital marketing while nearly as many (48 percent) chose “building brand awareness or conveying information.”

“This heavy focus on the top and bottom of the funnel suggests that many small business owners may be missing opportunities to improve other parts of their customer acquisition and retention process,” Johnson said.

Priorities

The survey asked which marketing channels small businesses expected to budget more for in 2016. Fifty-one percent listed improving their website as a top priority.

“Given the number of companies who named building brand awareness or just conveying information as a top marketing goal, it makes sense that 51 percent of small business owners planned to spend more money improving their websites in 2016,” the report said.

The overarching theme, according to Johnson, is that small business owners want a “slick-looking website,” but what they need is a sales and marketing strategy to accompany the site.

“It’s of no use building a website if you don’t have a sales funnel and a tech stack that integrates with it,” Johnson said. “There is now enough scale and options for small businesses to put together the technology to make the site work from a sales perspective. You can take a beautiful website and make it do something useful for you.”

Opportunities for Small Businesses

The report emphasized five areas where small business can utilize digital marketing technology in 2016:

  • Content marketing;
  • Customer relationship management;
  • Email marketing;
  • Landing pages;
  • Marketing automation.

“We see some small businesses starting to use these techniques, and feel that most should do it,” Johnson said. “Our customers who have implemented these practices are experiencing measurable growth as a result.”

Trends and Predictions

Regarding trends and predictions, the report recommended that small businesses focus on:

  • The use of paid social placement and mobile friendly assets;
  • Understanding the website is a sales tool, not just a marketing brochure;
  • Integrating all technology to serve the sales funnel seamlessly;
  • Establishing KPIs for data and acquiring the knowledge and tools to derive conclusions from that data.

Johnson concluded by saying, “It can be easy for a small business owner to read a report like this and feel overwhelmed. The key is to focus on one or two aspects initially, do some testing, see what works, and then iterate from there.

Click here to download the marketing tactics survey and report. Visit the Infusionsoft and LeadPages websites to learn more about what each has to offer.

Image: Infusionsoft, LeadPages

This article, "Small Business Marketing Tactics Revealed in Infusionsoft, LeadPages Study" was first published on Small Business Trends

The New Intuit Payroll Mobile App Makes Remote Work a Snap

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-05-02 15:30

For many small businesses, outsourcing non-core functions makes a lot of sense because they don’t generate any profit. Even though they might be essential, such as payroll, paying someone else to do it will give you more time to focus on the core competencies of your company. However, the market is full of software that has simplified payroll to the point where doing it in-house makes more sense.

The Intuit Mobile Payroll App Makes Paying Employees A Snap!

The new Intuit Payroll Mobile App extends the capabilities of QuickBooks Payroll so it can be accessed from anywhere. With this app, you can pay your employees and take care of your payroll taxes when you are away from your computer.

The Intuit mobile payroll app has functionalities that are essential for remote payroll tasks. Granted you don’t want to be on your mobile device doing the entire payroll for all of your employees all the time, but if you happen to be on the go this app can quickly and automatically sync with your Intuit Payroll account giving you access to the information you need.

The first thing you can do is run payroll, which is only a couple of taps away according to Intuit. All it takes is for you to enter the hours your employee has worked, review the paycheck and approve it. Three steps that can easily be achieved on your Android or iOS device smartphone or tablet: select the employee, pay the employee, review the checks.

For more details watch the below video.

Another great functionality is being able to pay taxes and file tax forms electronically with your mobile device. Whether you are at your accountant’s office or somewhere else, you can access your tax information with the same easy taps as making payroll.

Once you are at the Taxes & Forms screen, you can see which payments are due. You can then tap a tax payment or form to review, and then tap  E-Pay or E-File. Intuit then does the rest,followed by a confirmation of the successful e-payment or e-filing. If additional steps are necessary, Intuit will inform you of what is needed.

Taxes and Forms

If there is one thing small business owners are it’s busy, which invariably results in forgetting tasks here and there. The Intuit mobile app has an alert and notification feature that makes sure you always remember your payroll tasks. By setting the alerts and notification ahead of time, you can ensure your employees and the tax man always get paid on time.

The app also lets you view details about your employees, such as personal information, payment method, pay rate, sick hours and more.  This includes the paycheck history, so if you need to answer any questions about previous payments, it is as easy as tapping his or her name.

In order to fully optimize the Intuit mobile app, you need to sign in to QuickBooks Payroll on the web for the initial payroll setup and sign up for direct deposit and e-pay/e-file. This makes it possible to pay your employees and payroll taxes electronically with the mobile app.
The Intuit mobile payroll app is free with the payroll subscription and you can download it from the App Store or Google Play.
Image: Input

This article, "The New Intuit Payroll Mobile App Makes Remote Work a Snap" was first published on Small Business Trends

PC Shipments Drop 9.6 Percent in Q1, Gartner Reports

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2016-05-01 13:30

Bad times continue for desktop computers. According to a recent Gartner report, worldwide personal computer shipments fell 9.6 percent to 64.8 million units in the first quarter of 2016.

Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner explained, “The deterioration of local currencies against the U.S. dollar continued to play a major role in PC shipment declines. Our early results also show there was an inventory buildup from holiday sales in the fourth quarter of 2015.”

Notably, this was the sixth consecutive quarter of PC shipment declines, and also the first time since 2007 that the volumes declined below 65 million units.

Gartner Reports PC Shipments Drop

Highlights of the Gartner Report

The Gartner report has found that shipments dropped in all major regions, with Latin America (32.4 percent) showing the steepest decline. Sales in the region were severely impacted by Brazil, where ongoing economic and political instability contributed to significant PC shipment drops.

Low oil prices have also made a big impact on PC sales in Latin America and Russia.

Among PC makers, Lenovo maintained its top position despite registering a 7.2 percent drop in shipments. Significantly, the company experienced a decline in sales in all regions except North America, where PC units grew 14.6 percent from the same period last year.

Not a New Story

The sharp decline in the PC segment’s fortunes doesn’t come as a surprise.

Desktop computer sales have been falling since 2007, the year Apple launched the iPhone. In Q1 2015, sales dropped to historic lows, down by 10.4 percent.

Kitagawa points out that PCs are not being adopted in new households as they were in the past, particularly in the emerging markets where smartphones have become most popular. It’s this growing popularity of mobile devices that has prompted big players like Facebook and Google to shift their focus toward the mobile platform.

What This Means for Your Business?

The message is fairly clear: your customers are on mobile, so if you want to reach them focus on mobile. To begin with, create a well-defined mobile marketing strategy to understand how you can make the most of this platform.

A clear mobile strategy may guide you in the direction of a mobile-first approach and deliver measurable impact. Adopted by companies like Starbucks, Intuit, Waze and Uber, the mobile-first strategy is driven by the increasing popularity of mobile devices.

Companies that are adopting the mobile-first strategy understand that customers are using their mobile devices to find information and make purchase decisions. Their focus is therefore on boosting their mobile presence to connect with more customers.

A similar approach may work for your business, too. Plan your mobile marketing strategy and choose the most appropriate ways to benefit your business.

Desktop Computers Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "PC Shipments Drop 9.6 Percent in Q1, Gartner Reports" was first published on Small Business Trends

Are Exhausted Employees Destroying Your Business?

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2016-05-01 12:00

Very few entrepreneurs get enough sleep, and the “sleep shortage” is affecting employees too. Seven out of 10 workers in a recent survey  (PDF) by Accountemps/Robert Half report they are frequently tired on the job — which could be putting your business at risk.

Overall, 77 percent of men and 71 percent of women in the survey report frequently working while tired. A whopping 86 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds regularly work while tired, compared to just half of employees 55 and over. But before you dismiss these sleepy staffers as whiners, consider this: Working while tired has serious consequences for employers.

The Risks of Sleepy Staffers

If your employees operate machinery, drive on the job, or care for vulnerable clients (such as children in a daycare center), the risks of sleepiness are pretty obvious. However, even if your employees spend most of the day at their desks, being tired at work negatively affects U.S. companies’ productivity to the tune of $63 billion a year.

More than half (52 percent) of employees get distracted easily, 47 percent procrastinate more and 29 percent make more mistakes when they’re tired. These aren’t minor mistakes, either: among the errors survey respondents admitted to are “Ordered 500 more computers than were needed;” “Accidentally paid everyone twice;” and “Deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together.”

You can’t control what employees do on their off time, but you can take some steps to help prevent overtired workers. Start by being honest. If you notice an employee’s work seems to be suffering due to tiredness, have an open conversation with him or her to discover the cause. If it’s work-related, here are some things you can do:

Set Up a Nap Room

Some 55 percent of employees in the survey say they would use a nap room if their company had one. However, only 2 percent of employers in the survey currently offer nap rooms. If you survey your employees and find that they’d actually use a nap room, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Just putting a couch or a few comfortable chairs in an out-of-the way nook or unused cubicle can work.

Institute Flexible Work Schedules

Some people are night owls while others are morning larks. When employees have to work on a schedule that doesn’t fit their natural rhythms it can lead to over-tiredness. If possible, give your team the option to choose from flexible schedules organized around certain core hours. For example, you can require everyone to be there from 9 AM to 3 PM, but offer flexibility around those hours.

Offer Telecommuting Options

Lengthy commutes can eat into sleep time and lead to tired employees. Allowing workers to telecommute if it’s a fit with their job duties can help them get enough shut-eye.

Reassess Workloads For Sleepy Staffers

Are employees exhausted only during certain busy times of the year? If so, consider enlisting temporary employees or outside contractors to handle the overload. If certain employees are doing more than their share, figure out ways to redistribute the work so no one is burning the midnight oil.

Be a Role Model

If you give lip service to the idea of getting enough rest, but boast about regularly pulling all-nighters, employees will feel the need to emulate you. Chances are you could use more sleep yourself — so take the lead. Encourage employees to leave the office at a reasonable hour, set regular break times for staffers to get up and move around (this helps energize them), and start bragging about what a good night’s sleep you got last night instead of being up till 4 a.m. Getting even 30 minutes more sleep at night can make a huge difference in the way you feel — and the success of your business.

Exhausted Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Are Exhausted Employees Destroying Your Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends

BlackBerry Direct Sales Woos Small Businesses and Companies With Cheap Unlocked Phones

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2016-05-01 09:00

Just last month, BlackBerry announced an interesting sales initiative dubbed the BlackBerry Direct Sales Program. The program is supposed to, for the first time, allow IT administrators and business owners to directly purchase and deploy in-volume unlocked BlackBerry devices from the company’s Smartphone Business Sales Team, and now their efforts seem to be paying off.

“We’re starting to see a very positive reaction from our customers,” BlackBerry ecommerce product marketing manager Richard Lamb told Nicholas Greene in a BlackBerry post. “People are happy to hear from BlackBerry, and happy to talk to our team.”

According to BlackBerry, a variety of features are attracting businesses to the program. Here are the big ones.

Blackberry Direct Sales Features Cost and Convenience

BlackBerry says that unlocked BlackBerry devices that are sold directly from the company are significantly cheaper compared with those sold by carriers and that buying unlocked devices this way can slash total cost of ownership over several years.

Businesses “don’t have to worry about the long-term costs of subsidies, and they’re able to negotiate better service plans, as well,” explains BlackBerry sales representative Elliott Coulter. “This can save them anywhere from 75 to 100 dollars per device.”

Businesses and companies that purchase directly from BlackBerry enjoy a 30-day money back guarantee, dedicated account manager, one year complimentary support, one year manufacturer’s warranty, volume purchasing and payment advantages as well as free shipping that significantly reduces the device costs. The only catch here is that as a business, you must be willing to buy in bulk.

A Wide Range of Devices

Businesses are enjoying a wider selection of BlackBerry devices. You can ask for products that may be hard to come by in your region. These may include models such as the BlackBerry Passport Silver Edition and BlackBerry Leap.

Direct and Dedicated Line of Support

Businesses that are using the BlackBerry Direct Sales Program are enjoying a direct line of support and considerable security expertise.

“When customers contact the direct handheld sales team, they’re dealing with BlackBerry experts,” says Coulter. “We work with all OSes and brands, and can get answers much more quickly than if they were going through a third party. Small businesses are used to trolling support forums or going to Google for answers — we connect them directly with a product manager, who can assist them with any problem they encounter.”

Other advantages accompanying the BlackBerry Direct Sales Program include deeply customized service for customers already working for those that have ties with BlackBerry, fast delivery and deployment and superior security and productivity — something that BlackBerry has become known for over the years.

This program will most likely benefit both small and big companies, but an immediate impact would be to smartphone retailers that are looking for unlocked, high-quality smartphones at affordable prices. The fact that they can get direct support and 30-day money back guarantees makes it even better.

Image: BlackBerry

This article, "BlackBerry Direct Sales Woos Small Businesses and Companies With Cheap Unlocked Phones" was first published on Small Business Trends

Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business: Ensure Generational Success

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2016-05-01 07:00

As shared in Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business: Ensuring Success from One Generation to the Next, approximately 66 percent of family businesses don’t make it to the next generation. While this fact is known (think about the famous saying about family “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”), what isn’t well known is why. Most books focus on the rational aspects of failing as family business. This book focuses on the not-so-obvious aspects that can destroy a family business.

What “Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business” is About

The core concept behind Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business is not a “dirty little secret” at all. In fact, it’s an obvious realization: Families and businesses are not the same. The problem (and this is where the “dirty little secret” comes in) is that most under-performing family businesses don’t realize this. Serious problems can occur when you mix family problems with the family business and vice versa. When family members don’t communicate, are under-prepared or overpaid, the family business is destroyed.

The way out of this little conundrum for family businesses is proper planning, but author Henry Hutcheson is focusing on more than a succession plan or family meeting. His goal is to tackle five “traps” that family businesses often fall into. These are problems in:

  • Communication,
  • Delegation,
  • Financial Responsibility,
  • Fair Compensation and
  • Education.

By addressing these “traps” with policies and procedures, family businesses can steer clear of the majority of relationship-destroying behaviors that plague other businesses.

Henry Hutcheson (@HenryHutcheson) is a speaker, author, consultant, president and founder of Family Business USA, a consulting agency for family businesses. Hutcheson comes from a family of business owners. His mother worked for Olan Mill Portrait Studios and his father managed Peerless Woolen Mills.

What Was Best About Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business

The best part of Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business is the book’s focus on family as they are, not as they should be. Henry Hutcheson grew up in an environment of family business. This gives a unique perspective on issues like entitlement, differing attitudes towards money and personality clashes. They are things not covered in depth in another book on a similar subject, Linda Davis Taylor’s  The Business of Family: How to Stay Rich for Generations. While The Business of Family is good for wealth planning, Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business is good for relationship management that is crucial to the business.

This provides some measure of support for the obvious family issues that often seem intractable later down the line.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

The book is an overall great general guide to a wide variety of issues that can crop up during the operation of a family business. Because of that, this book does not provide a step-by-step map to addressing family problems. It provides an overview (often with an example) and some recommendations on how to fix them.

Why Read Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business

If you are thinking about or currently running a family business, this book provides a great exploratory guide to the potential obstacles in the process. The author demonstrates his own experience as a son raised around two home businesses throughout the book and uses that experience to share straightforward and common-sense recommendations on a lot of topics that some readers may not have even considered.

This article, "Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business: Ensure Generational Success" was first published on Small Business Trends

May Brings Voting for Small Business Book Awards

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-04-30 13:30

The month of May is almost bursting with great small business events. There’s an expo in Atlanta plus other great events in New York City, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Miami.

But before you do any of that stuff, why not take a minute to pop over to the Small Business Book Awards page and vote for your favorite book or small business resource. Only about a week and a half remains. See details below.

Then go and explore all the small business events on the list below to see what they have to offer.  For a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Small Business Book Awards – Voting Begins April 28!
May 11, 2016, Online

Voting for Small Business Book Awards begins on April 28, 2016 and runs through May 11, 2016 11:59 am PT. Voting is fast and easy. Once the voting period begins, simply visit the Business Book Awards site and click the red vote button. You can also visit on the “Categories” tab and select the categories you’d like to see. Then simply place your votes for the books you would like to see win!

Small Business Market Expo
May 21, 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)

DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award
June 14, 2016, Washington, D.C.

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.

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.

Vote Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "May Brings Voting for Small Business Book Awards" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Tips for Online and Content Marketing

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-04-30 12:00

Marketing a business online is no simple task. There’s a lot that goes into it. And members of our small business community have plenty of experience dealing with online and content marketing. Here are some of their top tips for online and content marketing.

Top Tips for Online and Content Marketing Focus on Epic Content

You’ve probably heard the popular saying that content is king. But that’s not necessarily the case, if you’re talking about creating short, generalized content. Instead, John Jantsch recommends in this Duct Tape Marketing post that you focus on creating content that is long and useful and epic.

Make Your Website a Better Salesperson

Your website can be a major factor when it comes to making sales. So you need to make it really work for you. Here, Joe Peters shares some tips for making your website a better salesperson in the Cirrus Insight blog.

Learn About Marketing Automation

There are plenty of different ways you can automate your marketing efforts to save time and make them more effective. Brent Csutoras shares some thoughts in this Search Engine Land post and Marketing Nerds podcast with James Loomstein. The BizSugar community also comments further on the post here.

Utilize Dynamic Remarketing

Remarketing campaigns can be incredibly effective when it comes to attracting customers who have previously bought from you or at least visited your site. And it’s not just for ecommerce businesses anymore either — as Laura Collins explains in this Marketing Land post.

Don’t Overlook the Power of Social Media

You’ve already heard about how businesses can use social media to interact with customers. But you might not be grasping just how big of a boost social media can provide. Mandy Edwards makes the case for social media marketing in this SteamFeed post.

Use the Crystal Effect to Unlock New Content Ideas

Coming up with a constant stream of ideas is essential to any good content marketing plan. To unlock all of those new content ideas, Jason Quey recommends using the crystal effect in this post on the ContentMarketer.io blog. And BizSugar members share their thoughts on the post here.

Solve Your Email Marketing Challenges With These Tools

Email is a great way to market to and communicate with customers. But you’ll likely need some of the tools outlined in this Exit Bee post by Vanhishikha Bhargava in order to really get the most out of your email marketing strategy.

Make More of Your Content

When you’re utilizing content marketing, you need to be very intentional when it comes to planning, creating and sharing that content. Here, Nick Davies shares some ways that you can make the most of your content in the Pretty Pragmatic blog.

Use Kindness to Make Your Content More Successful

When creating content for your business, you have to consider many different factors. You want it to be relevant and valuable. But you can also use kindness to really make your content stand out, as Sara Wachter-Boettcher explains in this Content Marketing Institute post. You can also see conversation surrounding the post over on BizSugar.

Don’t Believe These Misconceptions About Remote Workers

Businesses today don’t necessarily need teams that all work out of the same office all the time. Whether you’re considering hiring some outside marketing help or just letting your team telecommute from time to time, you might have some misconceptions about remote workers, like the ones outlined in this Redbooth post by Lisette Sutherland.

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.

Online Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Tips for Online and Content Marketing" was first published on Small Business Trends

Onewheel Skateboard Replaces Hoverboard in Weird Toy Category

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-04-30 09:30

There are some really weird products out there. But if you think that toys like the trendy “hoverboard” are as weird as it gets — you’re wrong. A new toy item that has recently hit the shelves is adding a whole new level of weird to the boardsport category.

Onewheel Skateboard, Weird Or Trendy?

Onewheel is a skateboard-type item. But as the name suggests –- there’s only one wheel. It’s a rather large wheel that sits at the very center of the board and even comes up above the board itself in the middle. It uses inertial sensors and a hub motor to balance the board around the one wheel in the center. And like hoverboards, it’s completely handsfree.

However, unlike hoverboards, you ride it facing sideways the way you would a skateboard. So, you just lean forward if you want the board to move forward. You move back if you want the board to stop. And you press with your heels or toes if you want the board to turn.

There’s also a mobile app, available for both Android and iPhone, which you can use to monitor your Onewheel and even customize parts of the handling experience to really fit with your particular riding style. For example, you can set your Onewheel to Extreme mode if you want to go a little faster. It also has LED lighting controls and battery status updates.

The Onewheel skateboard certainly seems to fit into the growing category of weird products. And while being weird can definitely help a business grab a customer’s attention, it’s not necessarily a recipe for success on its own. There have been plenty of weird products that have succeeded, and even more that have failed.

In recent years, these weird products and services have included everything from potato greeting cards to eye massages. But one of the major factors that can separate the weird successes from the rest is whether these weird products also provide something that people can actually use. For example, the idea of an eye massage sounds strange, but it’s a thing that some people actually find to be useful or even necessary.

On the other hand, you have weird products that provide value simply in the form of novelty, like potato greeting cards. Sure, you can send regular old paper greeting cards. But where’s the fun in that? However, there’s a limit to how much people will pay just for that novelty.

And since Onewheel retails for $1,499, it’s likely that this product will need some broader appeal in order to succeed. In addition, the product has to compete with the growing popularity of hoverboards, as well as competing with cheaper products that do essentially the same things, like the regular old skateboard.

It’s still too early to say whether the Onewheel skateboard will be a big hit. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if it was, given the growing popularity of weird products and high-tech versions of classic items. But it has plenty of competition and other obstacles to overcome.

So what do you think? Is Onewheel here to stay or just a passing fad?

Image: Onewheel

This article, "Onewheel Skateboard Replaces Hoverboard in Weird Toy Category" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Three Box Solution: Innovation in 3 Little Boxes

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2016-04-30 07:00

The constant call to innovate can infuriate even the most tech-savvy business owner out there. Not only do businesses have to maintain an online presence. They are expected to constantly monitor the market and correctly use those insights to amaze, delight and capture their future customers (who are already inundated with other businesses trying to do the same).

As a business owner, how do you make sense of this? How do you balance the need to stay competitive now with the need to stay competitive in the future?

What The Three Box Solution is About

The Three Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation offers a surprisingly simple answer to business owners who are tired of the “You need to innovate” call — three boxes. These three boxes are a mental framework the book offers to help owners strategically manage innovation. The “three boxes” represent three separate but interconnected principles:

  • Box 1: Forget the past
  • Box 2: Manage the present
  • Box 3: Create the future

The Three Box Solution highlights companies that, like GE, were able to use the principles from the above framework to pivot their product-based business to a leading service powerhouse for a new market. The book also highlights companies who failed to use to use the three boxes correctly, like IBM. IBM became hyper-focused on their strengths while failing to adapt to the “weak signals” (the changes that could drastically change the future). As a result, they declined, while a little company named Microsoft began making history.

The Three Box Solution points to the principle of nonlinear innovation as the key to success in a rapidly growing world. Business, as presented in this book, does not exist in a predictable world. Business owners have to become comfortable with managing the uncertainty of the future while maintaining the core and avoiding the mental traps of the past.

Vijay Govindarajan (www.3boxsolution.com) (@vgovindarajan) is an author and professor at Dartmouth College and a Harvard Business fellow. He began working at General Electric where he developed the concept of “reverse innovation.” One concept, $300 house, received an overwhelming amount of support and became a global initiative.

What Was Best About The Three Box Solution

The best part of the book is the breakdown of “Your business needs to innovate more” into realistic conceptual models. (This is in direct opposition to another book on innovation The Digital Transformation Playbook by David Rogers).

This breakdown is accompanied by Govindarajan’s insight into the nature of innovation. He repeatedly points out the bigger principles (like his emphasis on rapid low-risk experimentation) rather than getting bogged down in unnecessary details. This is needed for business owners who want to know the “Why?” behind nonlinear innovation.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

The downside to The Three Box Solution is the overemphasis on the “three box” solution as the solution for innovation. First, the book is enamored with its own procedure. Right from the beginning, the book discusses the mystical connections of the “three-box solution” without really taking the time to explain what should be in the three boxes.

Overall, the book is great and insights can be gleaned but readers may be left with “Well, how do I even start using the three box solution?”

Why Read The Three Box Solution

The Three Box Solution is good for business owners who have read a little bit about innovation and need some kind of guide forward to action. While the book doesn’t detail how to start using the “three-box solution”, it does provide detailed examples of activities that would fit into each box and by extension into your business.

This article, "The Three Box Solution: Innovation in 3 Little Boxes" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Utilize Technology to Grow Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-04-29 15:30

All business owners begin their venture with a focus on growth.

With the rapid advances in technology, new and effective opportunities are opening up for businesses to quicken their progress. Small businesses, nowadays, are increasingly tapping into the many resources that technology has rendered accessible. This is because, technology can provide a competitive advantage to businesses worldwide.

Technology brings forth innovation. These innovations have the potential to empower businesses and help them stand out from among the competition. However, it is crucial to devise strategies that can optimize the usage of these technologies in order for these to be effective for your business.

Let’s take a look at how you can utilize the boon of technology to your business’s advantage.

Using Technology for Small Business Growth Utilize the Power of the Cloud

For businesses worldwide, ‘Cloud’ is the buzzword. Cloud is a global network of online servers that allows you to carry out a number of business activities over the Internet. Most of us are already using the cloud to conduct our online banking transactions. In fact, you are already using the cloud as we speak, to read this article. The primary appeal of the cloud lies with the fact that you can manage your business operations from anywhere, any device and any time.

The benefits of the cloud are immense. Shifting your business to the cloud not only eases the workload but also increases productivity and coordination, facilitates mobility and reduces expenditure. Additionally, the multiple backups reduce the chances of loss of important data significantly.

With businesses migrating to the cloud, business clouds have evolved to accommodate the requirements. However, many businesses feel that safety is a concern while shifting to the cloud. Therefore, it is always wise to take proper precautions to keep your data secure.

Harness the Potential of Social Media

The number of active social media users has been found to be a whopping 2.307 billion. This number is expected to grow to 2.55 billion by 2018. That’s where your business’s expected traffic is. Therefore, you need to tap into the realm of social media to attract customers for your business.

The first step is to build a compelling social media presence for your business to increase visibility. The next step is to utilize these platforms as marketing campaigns. On social media, you can:

  • promote your services and products
  • provide personalized offers and deals to your consumers based on their online behavior
  • build channels with influencers
  • engage your customers through various activities like quizzes, contests etc.
  • enable buying options directly from social media platforms
  • gather customer feedback

That being said, it is important to keep in mind that most social media users access these platforms through their smartphones and tablets. Ensure that your website’s design is responsive to facilitate a seamless experience for your customers.

Leverage the Scope of WiFi

The scope of WiFi usage in businesses has expanded recently owing to the scores of benefits it provides. Nowadays, everyone wishes to stay connected wherever they go. Therefore, offering free WiFi to your customers can prove to be an effective marketing tool.

Providing free WiFi to your customers opens up the opportunity to build quality networks and accumulate valuable data regarding your clients’ online behavior. This can help you devise effective and customized strategies to promote the services and/or products that your business provides. Increased client satisfaction could mean further customer acquisition prospects for your business and, consequently, increased profit.

The right strategies to harness the power of WiFi can help you expand your business in no time.

Keep Track of Your Progress

The reach of technology has penetrated the domain of monitoring a business’s growth and productivity. Scores of business productivity software are available in the market that can track progress during each stage of attaining a goal. Numerous technology tools can help boosting the performance by identifying what doesn’t work and providing the right reinforcement to keep things up and running.

You can also monitor business performance by using tools to analyze the metrics in real time and make tweaks accordingly. You can utilize these reports to devise foolproof strategies.

Technology for small business growth is booming. It is important to be aware of the tools and the latest trends that can benefit your business and invest in the right tech-implementation techniques to optimize your benefits.

Cloud Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Utilize Technology to Grow Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Periscope Adds New Feature, New Video Streaming Service Announced

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2016-04-29 13:30

Fans of livestreaming have received some welcome news. Not only has Periscope started testing a new doodle feature, but a new platform is beginning to gain traction as well, giving live streamers even more options.

Read on for more small business headlines like these in our weekly Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media Periscope Tests New Doodle Feature on Your Live Stream

Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming video app, is now testing a new Periscope Sketching feature that allows users to draw and doodle on top of live-streamed video.

Launch Your Own Movie Channel With Unreel.me Video Streaming

YouTube’s got some new competition. Social video streaming company Unreel Entertainment has launched a new platform called Unreel.me, which provides all the tools businesses may need to instantly launch their unique, rich online video hubs. Not only that, they can monetize the content they create.

Employment Ace Those Summer Hires with Best Practices from ADP

Summer is just around the corner. And for many businesses, that means there’s an opportunity to hire seasonal help. Division Vice President and General Manager of HR Solutions for ADP, Aldor Delp, has some insights to share with small businesses about making the most of your summer hires. Below are some top tips for summer hire best practices.

My Experience With Transgender Bathroom Issues In the Workplace

What I am about to tell you is a true story of my experience as a business leader dealing with a transgender bathroom issue in the workplace.  It’s a challenging issue but one that, in many small business situations, can have a practical solution. Nothing in what I’m about to tell you involves breaking any confidences.  This was all public knowledge in our company.

Your Employees are Stressed Out About Their Financial Futures, Study Says

A vast majority of American workers are worried about their financial future, according to a new study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The latest Workplace Benefits Report has revealed that American workers’ stress about their finances has increased, while confidence in their financial futures has decreased.

Finance New Santander Select Adds Bells and Whistles to Personal Banking

If you maintain a high balance for your personal banking, there’s a new program from Santander that might be of interest. The Santander Select program aims to provide a more personalized experience for clients with high balances.

Bank of America Reports Earnings Drop in Q1, Stock Dips

Bank of America has announced its first-quarter results and the outcome is not very positive. The multinational banking corporation has reported a 13 percent decline in first-quarter profit. On a positive note though loan growth and expense cuts have prompted investors to be hopeful about the future.

Franchise Virginia Governor Vetoed House Bill 18, Franchise Industry Fumes

As the battle continues between National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the International Franchise Association (IFA) — a battle that started in August last year — Virginia is still struggling to push back a major NLRB ruling that redefined how the relationship between a corporation and its franchisees is viewed.

Marketing Tips Adaptive Medias Merges With AdSupply, Touts Anti-Adblocking Product

When one company acquires or merges with another, one of the goals is to improve its current product line while seamlessly integrating the solutions from the new organization. In the case of AdSupply, which is acquiring Adaptive Medias, the fit seems to be perfect.

Anchor Audio App Lets You Broadcast to Your Followers Via iPhone

Launched back in February 2016, the Anchor audio app introduced an exciting new medium to the world of social media – your own voice. That’s right. Using the Anchor audio app, you can record a short segment and then share it with the world. The world can then talk back, using recordings called replies.

Google Busting Publishers Using Clickjacking

Google has always been known to safeguard its applications to thwart anyone from using them for fraudulent activities. Recent developments in this regard have had Google defending its ad systems to prevent something known as clickjacking. What is Clickjacking? Clickjacking has emerged as a recent threat to cost-per-click display ads.

Google Home Service Ads Expand, Add Electricians and HVAC

After Google’s phenomenal success in connecting home services owners to local residents in the San Francisco Bay Area last year, it has now taken a new step in this direction to include Electricians and HVAC Services in its Google Home Service Ads Program.

Retail Trends Millennials Want To Visit Your Store, Not Just Your Website

For retailers, PWC’s Total Retail 2016 study (PDF) has a wealth of useful information about shopper behavior. But one statistic stood out for me because it’s so surprising: Millennial customers actually shop at physical stores more — not less — than other generations. Of course, that’s not to say that Millennials don’t shop online.

Shopify Acquisition of Kit CRM Introduces Conversational Commerce

Shopify has just recently announced that it is all set to acquire Kit CRM, a virtual marketing assistant that leverages messaging to help businesses market their online stores. The acquisition of Kit CRM will will add yet another feather in the crown of conversational commerce.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: PeeqSee Offers an Interactive Social App

There’s no shortage of social media platforms for people to choose from these days. So it can be difficult to get one to stand out from the rest. That’s why PeeqSee focuses on creating an experience that’s truly interactive. Read more about the app in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What PeeqSee Does Provides a social media app and site with interactive content.

Startup 5 Startups Participate in Prestigious Constant Contact Innovation Program

Constant Contact recently announced the newest class of startups participating in its prestigious Small Business Innovation Program, an accelerator that supports entrepreneurs as they refine and grow their early-stage companies, and develop and solve issues for small business owners and nonprofits.

Technology Trends Outbrain Launches Content Bots for Chat Platforms

The online content discovery platform Outbrain has launched Outbrain for Chat, a new service that will help online publishers to launch content bots or applications across leading Messaging platforms. You may not have heard of Outbrain yet, but you most likely have come across some of their work online.

43 Percent of Cyber Attacks Target Small Business

Cyber crime is on the rise and small businesses are increasingly becoming the target of hackers. New data from Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report shows that small businesses have become a big target for phishers. Last year, phishing campaigns targeted small businesses (PDF) 43 percent of the time.

Feds Urge You Uninstall QuickTime from Windows Computers Immediately

As much as we all love the digital world we currently live in, the issue of security is an annoyance we could all do without. One of the latest security risks was announced by the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) with an alert urging customers to uninstall QuickTime from Windows.

New Priv by BlackBerry Apps Aimed at Small Businesses

Ever since BlackBerry joined forces with Google on the company’s latest phone — Priv by BlackBerry —  life has become considerably easier. That’s especially true for small business owners who use BlackBerry’s apps available on the Play Store to manage their businesses.

Is the Flyboard Air Real or Just A High Flying Stunt?

A new product has been sweeping the web since early April – and most aren’t even sure if it’s 100% legit. Zapata Racing, a French company, announced on April 8 that it has “achieved the dream of all men” in creating an alien-like hover board, which they have dubbed the ZR Flyboard Air. The hover board claims to be the result of four years of hard work and planning.

Image: Periscope

This article, "Periscope Adds New Feature, New Video Streaming Service Announced" was first published on Small Business Trends