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What Your Business Can Learn From This Unique Asteroid (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 16:30

Most asteroids that have been found hurling through space have been made of ice or rock. So when you find one made almost entirely of metal, you have to check it out.

That’s the case with 16 Psyche, a recently-discovered asteroid that scientists believe is composed mainly of nickel and iron. For that reason, NASA is setting its sights on the asteroid for its next mission.

But even though the iron on the asteroid alone could be worth up to $10,000 quadrillion, this mission isn’t about mining resources from the asteroid. Some scientists believe that the earth’s core is made of some of the same metals as the asteroid. And so 16 Psyche could actually be the core of an early planet, which could potentially help scientists learn a lot more about the makeup of our own planet.

Pay Attention to Serendipitous Discoveries

It’s unlikely that your business is going to visit any asteroids in the near future. But this concept is actually one that can apply to a lot of businesses as well. When you find an anomaly of any kind, whether it’s an asteroid made of unique materials or just a strange jump in traffic on your analytics, it’s worth looking into.

In business, like in science and so many other areas of life, the lessons you learn aren’t always planned. Sometimes you run into things by accident that can be extremely helpful in getting you where you want to go – as long as you actually take the initiative to look into those serendipitous discoveries.

NASA Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Your Business Can Learn From This Unique Asteroid (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Obamacare Repeal Could Impact Self-Employed, Buying and Selling of Small Businesses Up

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 14:30

As the U.S. prepares for a change in leadership, a few major economic changes are taking place. The potential repeal of Obamacare could impact small business owners and self-employed individuals more than others. The marijuana industry has some concerns about Jeff Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General. And the number of businesses being bought and sold has reached an all time high.

You can read about those changes and more below in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Economy 28  Percent of Obamacare Customers are Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

If Obamacare is repealed without a replacement, two groups are likely to be upset, small business owners and more specifically the self-employed or those in the gig economy. Coincidentally, those people may be among voters who helped elect Donald Trump — an outspoken advocate of repeal — into office.

Number  of Small Businesses Bought and Sold Hits All Time High, BizBuySell Reports

If you have ever thought of buying or selling a small business or franchise, now is a good time to do so. The number of small businesses bought and sold has continued to rise steadily. According BizBuySell.com’s Q4 2016 Insight Report, small business transactions reached record highs in 2016, exceeding 2015’s annual totals by 8.6 percent and 2014’s previous high by 4.

Marijuana Industry Reacts to Trump Attorney General Appointment

President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint U.S, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general has kicked up a storm in the cannabis industry. Many fear Sessions, a vocal opponent of marijuana, will come down hard on the business, even if they complied with their state laws.

Yelp Report: Is This the Year of Millennial and Minority-owned Businesses?

Millennials and minority-owned businesses are most optimistic about 2017, according to a new survey by Yelp (NYSE: YELP). Millennial and Minority Owned Business Statistics Yelp’s second Small Business Pulse survey reveals millennials expect 69 percent more revenue growth than their older counterparts for 2017. Minority-owned businesses are also feeling positive about their growth.

Employment Could Businesses Eventually Face Overtime, Flexibility Backlash?

Advancements in technology and connectivity have undeniably swept in a new golden era for remote working. Last year, 38 percent of Americans were permitted to work from home at least one day a week (PDF) — and almost half of all professionals considered leaving their jobs due to a lack of flexibility.

Management Food Pantries Are Getting Smaller to Better Serve Communities (Watch)

Today’s food pantries are getting a makeover. In past years, communities would rely on local charity organizations and churches to collect food and other needed goods and then wait for families in need to ask for help. But there are some issues with that process. For one, even those who have genuine needs aren’t always willing to go out of their way to ask for help.

Retail Trends Coffee Prices Rise: Will Your Business Be Affected?

Consumers are bracing for impact after the company behind some of America’s most popular coffee brands announced plans to increase prices by an average of 6 percent. Folgers, Café Bustelo and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee will all be affected by global roaster and distributor J.M. Smucker, which blamed the imminent price hikes on “sustained increases in green coffee costs”.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: #getfried Fry Cafe Makes French Fries a Main Course

When you think of French fries, you probably picture them next to a hamburger or other dish. But now, fries can actually stand on their own as a main course thanks to #getfried Fry Cafe. Read more about this new spin on fries and the business behind it in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does Offers french fries with a twist.

Small Business Operations Discord Offers Potential Business Collaboration Features — at No Cost!

Even though Discord was created to give gamers a highly-secure all-in-one voice and text chat app for free, it can easily be applied for business use to enable collaboration. Setting up Discord, the Free Collaboration Tool In as little as 10 seconds, you can set up Discord if you choose to run it on your browser.

Boxed Offers Bulk Shopping Online for Businesses

Cutting out the time it takes to actually go and buy your business supplies hasn’t been a reality until recently. But ordering your supplies from your PC or smartphone through a service called Boxed, can give you back hours you can devote to making your company better.

Technology Trends High Tech Entrepreneurs, Take Note of This New Heart Device (Watch)

How do you treat a failing heart? That’s a complicated question, and one that doctors and scientists have worked tirelessly to answer for years. But a new innovation takes a unique approach that actually makes a lot of sense — mimicking an actual working human heart.

More Consumers Can Soon Try Grocery Delivery From Amazon (Watch)

Grocery delivery is a growing trend in markets around the U.S. But some of those who could most benefit from getting their groceries delivered, like those living in food deserts, can’t afford it. That’s about to change in a few select communities though.

Paris Wants to Mix Old and New With Eiffel Tower Upgrades (Watch)

The most recognizable landmark in Paris may be getting a makeover. The Eiffel Tower has been around since the late 1800’s. And while it’s still an iconic building, city officials in Paris feel that it could use a few updates. The proposed changes would include adding security measures, improving the flow of tourists, upgrading elevators, paint, lights and more.

SimpliSafe Home Security Service May Also Provide Small Business Solution

Securing the place we live and work in used to be a task best left for professional, but like almost every other industry, digital technology is also democratizing security. SimpliSafe Home Security lets you install a wireless security system with all the bells and whistles, without needing an expert and paying an arm and a leg for it.

Navigating the Storm: 100 Days to Cloud with Microsoft Partner Network

There was heavy snowfall in and around Seattle for the first time in years, but the weather-watch didn’t stop 50-plus attendees and 10-plus speakers from engaging in Microsoft Partner Network’s 100 Days to Cloud workshop.

Why This Private Business is Heading to the Moon (Watch)

For the first time ever, a private company is heading to the moon. Moon Express got the approval from the U.S. government last year. And it recently raised enough money to make the trip. The company’s goal is ultimately to mine the moon for resources. But that could be more easily said than done.

WordPress  4.7 Reaches 10 Million Downloads, Releases New Security and Maintenance Update

Just a little over a month after its release, WordPress version 4.7 has been downloaded over 10 million times, according to the official WordPress.org blog. WordPress Version 4.7 was released to the public on December 6, 2016.

Trump Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Obamacare Repeal Could Impact Self-Employed, Buying and Selling of Small Businesses Up" was first published on Small Business Trends

Remember, New USPS Increases Go Into Effect Soon

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 13:00

It will soon cost more to send that check in the mail — or that vintage ash tray you just sold on eBay for that matter.

A new increase in United States Postal Service mailing and shipping rates goes into affect January 22, 2016. So, if you have any last minute packages to ship and would like to save some money, now would be a good time.

2017 Postage Rate Increases Go Into Effect Soon

The new USPS increases announced in October 2016 include a two cent bump in the cost of a First Class Mail Forever Stamp — the first such increase since January 2014.

The increase doesn’t include changes for Postcards, letters being sent to international destinations or additional ounces for letters, the USPS explained in an October release.

The prices for First Class Mail are as follows:

                                                                     Current                                              New
Letters (1 oz.)                                             47 cents                                              49 cents
Letters additional ounces                        21 cents                                              21 cents
Letters to international destinations     $1.15                                                   $1.15
Postcards                                                    34 cents                                              34 cents

USPS Shipping Services will see a somewhat more dramatic increase.In another release from October 2016, USPS announced an average increase of 3.9 percent for its Shipping Services.

The announcement further outlines a 3.9 percent hike in Priority Mail and 3.3 percent boost in Priority Mail Retail prices.

Here’s a more detailed look at how the rates for USPS Shipping Services in 2017 will break down:

                                                                                              Current                                     New
Small flat-rate box                                                               $6.80                                         $7.15
Medium flat-rate box                                                          13.45                                         13.60
Large flat-rate box                                                               18.75                                         18.85
Large APO/FPO flat-rate box                                              16.75                                         17.35
Regular flat-rate envelope                                                  6.45                                           6.65
Legal flat-rate envelope                                                      6.45                                           6.95
Padded flat-rate envelope                                                  6.80                                           7.20

The USPS quickly points out there is no increase for First-Class Package International Service, Priority Mail Express International and Priority Mail International.

The release also insists increases don’t won’t raise average rates above $5 per shipment across all products.

That may be. But certainly the increase introduces one more cost for small businesses who routinely use the service to consider when evaluating other options.

Post Office Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Remember, New USPS Increases Go Into Effect Soon" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Is Your Best Incentive — Besides Money — For Keeping Great Employees? [POLL]

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 11:30

Small businesses need great employees, too.

Often though, it’s big businesses that are plucking the best talent away from small businesses. It’s them that typically has the capital to pay a higher salary and the resources to offer better benefits packages.

So, if your small business currently has some great talent on board and their help is invaluable, what are you doing to keep them in the fold? And if you’re looking to hire someone new to the team, what can you do to incentivize them to say yes to your offer?

If you’re like a lot of other small businesses, offering more money may not be an option. But there are other non-monetary benefits that could speak to a prospective candidate you just can’t let get away.

Tell us what your small business is doing to keep top talent in this week’s poll question and feel free to share your stories in the Comments section below.

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

Handshake Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Is Your Best Incentive — Besides Money — For Keeping Great Employees? [POLL]" was first published on Small Business Trends

How Fintech is Bridging the Big Bank Gap

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 10:30

Big banks have always been averse to risk.  They also tend to view small and medium-sized businesses as high-risk, choosing to restrict investment, in terms of both lending and services, for the SMB market. A 2015 credit survey by the Federal Reserve found that smaller institutions were 18 percent more likely to approve a small business loan than big banks, while SMBs that did work with big banks reported an uninspiring 51 percent satisfaction rating.

While banks are not always helpful to SMBs, there are other options for the services they deliver.  The good news for SMBs is that everything from small business loans to payments, payroll to point of point of sale suddenly has competition in the form of fintech.  Fintech is creating competition in a financial services market which would have seemed highly inhospitable to budding providers just a few years ago.  Some fintech companies are thriving providing specialized, effective services, from lending to payments and everything else SMBs need to thrive.

Fintech Trends Competition Benefits Many

Some of the results are stunning, with fintech companies that were themselves small businesses rapidly expanding into the service vacuum left by big banks.  Companies shaking up the SMB lending market include Kabbage, which has processed over $1.6 billion in SMB loans, and Lendio, which secured $20 million in funding in October. Sweden-based payments provider Trustly is processing transactions at an annualized run-rate of over €3.5 billion.

Clearly, their market is large, and investors see continued growth.  So who are their customers?  Trustly’s Chief Commercial Officer, Johan Nord, sees them as regular SMEs, with an appetite for growth, that want a a cost-effective, easy, and effective system for payments.

“Trustly’s technology allows SMEs to expand from one country throughout Europe at no extra cost, effectively making them pan-European,” Nord says. “It is all managed through one agreement for all markets, thereby reducing administrative costs. Since Trustly manages the entire payment process, it enables instant and painless refunds for merchants. It affords SMEs other functions too, such as enabling payments to be delayed until certain criteria have been met or splitting payments between different providers in the value chain.”

For the most part, fintech companies have not not fought the big banks for their traditional lines of business, like big business credit, and residential mortgages, but there have been fintech entrants even to those markets, in addition to those supplying under-served or newer markets like eCommerce.

Micro-lending  innovator Muhammad Yunnus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, and fintech has brought this disruptive financial innovation to a range of markets, including SMB loans.

Competition from fintech not only increases the availability of financial services, it can also promote lower prices, and create new services through tailoring or packaging for specific markets, as well as innovation.  Fintech can also deliver other benefits, like speed, security, and convenience.

What Fintech Brings to the Table

Applying technology to financial industry challenges often means using innovations in encryption and other areas of security, or algorithms which help analyze opportunity and risk.

Some of the specific benefits of fintech vary between different financial services, and some are more or less common to the type.  Technology can lower barriers and costs, and enable new or different service models, including tailored solutions.

Just in lending, social lending and algorithmic credit assessment have increased availability for small and medium-sized businesses.  New models of financing are also enabled by fintech.

Peer-to-peer lending platforms lower the scale barrier that has blocked many SMBs around the world. Companies like US-based Funding Circle or Prosper Marketplace have facilitated tens of thousands of peer-to-peer business loans.  SMBs are benefiting not only from access to financing, but in some cases from superior rates, spurred by both the removal of intermediaries and competition for early market share.

In payments, fintech is deeply connected to ecommerce and international commerce, enabling cross-border sales without creating major challenges related to transaction speed or currency conversion.  By enabling ecommerce for SMBs, fintech holds the key to rapid growth for companies slowed only by the size of their local market.  A company successfully serving a local niche may simply repeat that success in numerous similar markets in different locations if it can manage to take payment and deliver the product or service from a distance.

Importance of Business Services Procurement to Profitability

For many small and medium-sized business owners, the same kinds of scale issues that make borrowing harder also present cost challenges.  There are very few opportunities for SMBs to cut costs without sacrificing the quality of core products or services.  Getting a slightly better rate, or a slightly more efficient service, can be the difference between good margins and no margins.

Savings can be found in competitive areas of the business services market, and in emerging services that do something in a new, more efficient way.  While fintech has increased direct competition with the big banks face in a number of services, fintech can also reduce the number of steps in a process, as Trustly does by providing a bridge directly between customer’s banks, and the merchants they want to pay.

“For SMEs new Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs), like Trustly, offer the efficiencies that comes with new and innovative electronic payment solutions. Trustly’s service enables consumers to pay for goods and services online directly from their bank accounts, without the need for middlemen such as a credit or debit card, with bank level security to and from anywhere in Europe. The product is free for consumers, and has the added safety feature of not storing any of your valuable details, and for SMEs, such as e-merchants, it eliminates risk and fraud issues. The Trustly user interface can be integrated into the merchant’s web page and visiting consumers can pay from their local bank using their traditional login details, on any device.”

Those efficiencies, from avoided fees to middlemen to fraud reduction, all save businesses money.

Since all of the money saved in business expenses is either added to the bottom line or redirected into funding other areas, finding ways to receive the same or better business services for less money is a huge opportunity.  At this point in the development of the market, SMBs are positioned to join the front line, benefiting from that opportunity, with fintech.

With a little extra time to shop around, you can take advantage of new and improved market for financial services.

– For SMEs new Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs), like Trustly, offer the efficiencies that comes with new and innovative electronic payment solutions. Trustly’s service enables consumers to pay for goods and services online directly from their bank accounts, without the need for middlemen such as a credit or debit card, with bank level security to and from anywhere in Europe. The product is free for consumers, and has the added safety feature of not storing any of your valuable details, and for SMEs, such as e-merchants, it eliminates risk and fraud issues. The Trustly user interface can be integrated into the merchant’s web page and visiting consumers can pay from their local bank using their traditional login details, on any device.

– Trustly’s technology allows SMEs to expand from one country throughout Europe at no extra cost, effectively making them pan-European. It is all managed through one agreement for all markets, thereby reducing administrative costs. Since Trustly manages the entire payment process, it enables instant and painless refunds for merchants. It affords SMEs other functions too, such as enabling payments to be delayed until certain criteria have been met or splitting payments between different providers in the value chain.

Fintech Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How Fintech is Bridging the Big Bank Gap" was first published on Small Business Trends

70 Percent of B2Bs Have Lost Sales to Online Ordering Issues, Report Says

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 08:30

Seventy percent of today’s small online B2B businesses say they have lost a deal because potential customers had trouble ordering on their websites. And more specifically 35 percent blame their site’s inability to support promotional discounts or promotions.

The results are highlights of CloudCraze’s 2017 B2B Digital Commerce Imperative study.

CloudCraze, a B2B/B2C cross-channel eCommerce solution native on Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), surveyed nearly 200 IT and marketing professionals with an online presence about the challenges and opportunities they face serving customers across channels.

The  company wanted to learn how brands that have already made the move online can drive greater sales through digital.

2017 B2B Ecommerce Trends

In general, CloudCraze’s study noted that a gap has emerged between the commerce expectations of B2B buyers and what brands are able to provide.

“Many [B2B businesses] struggle to meet the complex needs of their buyers due to a reliance on inflexible, outdated commerce systems,” wrote CloudCraze in its report. As a result, 31 percent say they’ve missed out on at least $2 million in sales.

Another notable finding was that business buyers’ expectations center around convenience. This is not entirely surprising. Most B2B customers demand mobile access to their commerce platform (55 percent), convenient payment processes (52 percent) and advanced payment features (50 percent).

But the study also unearthed some interesting data about B2C companies as well in its surveying.

When asked what would solve their customers’ pain points, B2C businesses said payment management was the first priority, with 26 percent ranking it highest on their list. Omnichannel account engagement came in second at 24 percent and storefront management third at 23 percent.

CloudCraze also surveyed 197 B2B and B2C businesses in September 2016. Download the full report for more industry insights on B2B and B2C customer expectations and business readiness in 2017.

Image: CloudCraze

This article, "70 Percent of B2Bs Have Lost Sales to Online Ordering Issues, Report Says" was first published on Small Business Trends

Setting the Right Tone in Business

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 07:30

The idea for this cartoon is pretty simple. Put a bunch of really negative comments on the board and have the presenter sort of soft-pedal it.

Simple, but nice.

The trick was how far to go with the negativity.

There’s only so much space there and you want to get it across quickly and plainly, so I had to throw out a few options:

Arrggh!!
Are you talking’ to me?!
Oh yeah?! Well YOU try it!
Them’s fightin’ words!
It’s Cathy. It’s always Cathy.
Burn it! BURN IT ALL!!!

OK, those are fun, but I think in the end the cartoon turned out fine as is.

This article, "Setting the Right Tone in Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Cheap Aftermarket Tech Upgrades for Company Vehicles

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-01-20 06:00

No word yet on when cars will be able to take the wheel while dressing you in a suit, à la “The Incredibles,” but today’s carmakers are still coming up with some pretty fancy new technology.

As the industry barrels toward autonomous vehicles, new cars include increasingly advanced ways to protect drivers, such as automatic braking and blind spot monitoring. Plus, new car technology often means posh comfort features. Think WiFi access and massaging seats.

But it’s not always affordable to buy a new car or expensive technology packages, and buying a used car — or holding on to a car longer — is much more practical for many shoppers.

The good news is, you don’t need a new car to get some of the latest upgrades. Several aftermarket devices can be added to your current ride to give it capabilities found in new models, often for less than $100 each.

Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, is a “big believer” in upgrading older cars with new technology.

“Especially if it’s a car you otherwise really like. I have an old 2005 Ford GT, which is a unique car they only made for two years. It’s a car I can’t just go get a newer version of,” Brauer says. “If I want a more modern feature in my car, I have to add it myself. So I put an upgraded head unit that in one fell swoop of installation went from a single CD player and AM/FM radio to something that could play everything but Blu-ray.”

Below are a few of the ways to give your trusty ride a technology facelift — from heated seats to rearview camera capabilities — without spending a fortune.

Aftermarket Tech Upgrades for Company Vehicles 1. Heads-up Displays

In a world of Oculus Rift and virtual reality video games, the auto industry is ripe for a video projection upgrade.

Heads-up displays, or HUDs, show navigation for drivers as a transparent image projected on the windshield and have been included in newer car models by brands such as Audi, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Land Rover.

HUDs not only display arrows for upcoming turns, but also information like your speed, mileage, engine warnings and more — all without ever requiring your eyes to leave the road. It’s typically offered as a factory-installed add-on but is becoming standard equipment on higher-end cars and even some midlevel models.

You can find standalone aftermarket HUDs for $100 to $300; they typically project onto a transparent screen that sits on the dashboard in front of your windshield and displays directions and engine warnings. Other companies have designed stands and smartphone apps that provide HUD capabilities for even less, like the Hudway Glass for $49.95.

2. Seat Heaters and Massagers

Want to give your car the comfort level of a spa? Start with the seats.

Built-in heating pads in car seats debuted on the 1966 Cadillac DeVille, but the cozy upgrade has soared in popularity in recent years, with heated seats offered on almost every new model today. In fact the 2016 Ford F-150, a pickup truck, not only offers a seat warmer, but also front-seat cooling and massaging capabilities as well.

If your car didn’t come with upgraded seats, you don’t have to miss out. You can buy seat covers with various heating settings for less than $50, such as Bed Bath & Beyond’s heated car seat cushion for $39.99. More advanced cushions can provide cooling and massages, while still costing less than $100. Two examples with high customer ratings, the Five Star FS8812 10-Motor Vibration Massage Seat Cushion ($59.99) and the Gideon Luxury Cooling and Heating Ventilated Seat Cushion ($49.95), are available through Amazon.

3. Parking Sensors

Twisting in and out of small parking spots is incredibly stressful, and often leads to scratched doors or fender benders. The latest automobiles can sometimes take the wheel for you with automatic parking, but there’s an affordable way to add parking help to your current car.

Parking sensors typically activate when you shift into reverse. Using sound waves, the sensors detect surrounding objects and use increasing beeping or lights to warn drivers when they’re coming close to hitting something.

Aftermarket sensors can be purchased for less than $35, like Zone Tech’s Car Reverse Backup Radar System for $15.75. Of course, the more you spend, the more features the tool typically offers. Original manufacturer parts with multiple sensors may cost up to $300, such as the JustforJeeps.com Park Distance Sensors for $306.90.

And while experienced professional installation is always a plus, several sensors don’t require drilling or wiring, and can be installed at home. Just make sure they’re compatible with your car before buying.

4. Rearview Camera

We can’t sing the praises of rearview cameras enough — they’ve become essential safety equipment for nearly all vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will require them in all new vehicles after May 1, 2018, as rearview blind spots account for over 15,000 injuries each year, and backup cameras reduce this blind zone by about 90 percent.

You can buy a quality rearview camera that you can install yourself for less than $150. Auto retail chain Pep Boys offers a wireless backup camera for $127.49 online.

5. Bluetooth Stereos

Nobody wants a ticket for holding a cell phone, or worse, an accident caused by distracted driving. And in today’s constantly connected world, that makes Bluetooth capabilities a fan favorite upgrade.

Bluetooth installation wirelessly syncs your phone to your sound system, so drivers can speak to callers over their car speakers, display incoming alerts on their dashboard, and operate their phone’s music through the car stereo — meaning no more manually scrolling through your tiny device to find Beyonce’s “Lemonade” on your morning commute.

And you don’t have to buy a whole new vehicle to get one. Simply replace your current stereo with a Bluetooth-equipped one. A reliable model can be found for under $150. Best Buy’s Kenwood radio, at $79.99, has over 100 positive customer reviews, and the company’s Geek Squad auto techs will install it for $64.99. Also, many independent shops sell stereos and provide installation for varying fees.

Image: Hudway Glass via NerdWallet.com

This article, "5 Cheap Aftermarket Tech Upgrades for Company Vehicles" was first published on Small Business Trends

Making Big Data User Friendly For Small Businesses

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-01-19 18:30

What do you think of when you think of “big data?”

If you’re like most of us, you probably think of large-scale IT projects. You might think of detailed analytics that are designed to make your head spin.

I mean, who needs to bother with all those annoying numbers, right?

Well, here’s the thing: big data isn’t just for big business. Big data is also important for small businesses.

If you’re not focusing enough on your analytics, you could be missing out on amazing growth opportunities for your business. You might be making decisions that hurt your business.

Big Data And Small Business

Big Data is by no means a new concept for most people in the business world. For many small businesses, the use of data technology has been mostly out of reach due to budget constraints and lack of in-house technical expertise.

If that’s the case for you and your business, you are a part of the 77 percent that don’t yet have a big data strategy. The emergence of self-service solutions, however, has been slowly opening the gates for small businesses and the opportunities to leverage internal data are growing.

Rita Sallam, VP of Research at Gartner, says that there are “approximately 70 percent of users in organizations that currently do not use BI tools or have statistical backgrounds.” Therefore, “New approaches have the potential to transform how and which users can derive insights from data discovery tools.”

If 70% of users were able to leverage big data insights without technical backgrounds, the impact on operations and revenue could be enormous. This is even more true for small businesses, as technical expertise is often siloed in IT departments.

That is why many startups are making data accessible to low-tech businesses. Uday Hegde is the CEO and Co-Founder of USEReady, a data analytics firm that helps businesses implement data solutions.

Hegde believes that self-service data is crucial for making business intelligence a reality for businesses of any size. “As self-service tools become more prevalent, non-technical employees can access data like never before. This helps executives at every level of the organization to conduct analysis and speed up the decision-making process.”

Making Data More User-Friendly

One of the biggest challenges to small businesses that are developing data analytics and business intelligence strategies is the way in which data insights are presented. Complicated excel sheets and poorly designed dashboards make it virtually impossible for non-IT professionals to use their data.

Self-service solutions are working to use better designing practices to help solve this problem. “By making data sets visual, business owners can start asking the right questions and making decisions based on hard facts rather than speculation.” Hegde explains. “The result is often better allocation of crucial technology, people, and resources.” The key is making data presentable so all stakeholders can use it.

A perfect example of how impactful data visualization techniques can be is this video from statistician and TED talker, Hans Rosling.

Zeroing in On the Right Kind of Data

Self-service data solutions are opening up new opportunities for businesses to figure out which data sets are the most useful. The number of vendors looking to help is always growing. Using data tools like Tableau, or CRM software like Hubspot, enable organizations to identify more specific data points to help them evaluate business performance.

Web traffic is a great example. It’s one of the most important pieces of data that a business owner can have. But for most organizations, it fails to offer any actionable insights. When a business owner is able to understand which demographics and customer segments are spending the most time on her website, she can use this data to improve her marketing efforts.

Tracking Year-Over-Year Data

It is not uncommon for small businesses to operate without large amounts of historical data. However, self-service tools are allowing them to collect information over much longer periods of time. This helps business owners create a better picture of long-term growth that goes deeper than traditional revenue or P&L numbers.

By tracking historical data, companies can begin to evaluate the success of key business decisions, both in the short and long-term. Executives can avoid costly errors based on information from previous initiatives that performed poorly. Additionally, they could identify which parts of the business are most profitable and identify new ways to expand those services.

Small businesses that successfully deploy self-service data solutions can enjoy increased profits and reduced risk by identifying problems sooner rather than later. Hegde asserts that “all businesses need a clear data strategy to create a competitive advantage.” As the technology continues to develop and the number of providers catering to businesses of all sizes increase, it can be expected that data will continue to be one of the most important assets an organization can have.

Final Thoughts

Most small business owners assume that “big data” is for “big business.” But it’s not true. If you are able to improve the way your business looks at its metrics, you can make better decisions. You can avoid taking actions that waste time and money. In the end, a better business intelligence strategy will make your company more effective.

Data Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Making Big Data User Friendly For Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

High Tech Entrepreneurs, Take Note of This New Heart Device (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-01-19 16:30

How do you treat a failing heart? That’s a complicated question, and one that doctors and scientists have worked tirelessly to answer for years. But a new innovation takes a unique approach that actually makes a lot of sense — mimicking an actual working human heart.

The robotic device actually wraps around the human heart and then uses air pressure to mimic the squeezing motion that the heart makes naturally. So then if a cardiac arrest occurs, the robot can keep going and theoretically keep the heart pumping. Early tests on animals showed positive results, though the device hasn’t been adopted widely with human users yet.

With all of the tech innovations that businesses are working on today, there are plenty that are actually made to mimic things found in the real world. There are robots that vacuum, take photos and even answer questions using human language.

Real World Provides Plenty of Product Design Inspiration

Of course, there’s a lot that goes into making those products. But it’s also important for tech innovators to remember the actual purpose of what they’re creating. And sometimes, that means you need to go back to the source for product design inspiration. Remember this even when innovating in your own small business.

Commute Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "High Tech Entrepreneurs, Take Note of This New Heart Device (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Most Important Steps To Establishing Your Brand Online  

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 18:30

It’s hard isn’t it?

Yes, I’m talking about establishing your brand online. As you have probably learned, you can’t just throw up a cool-looking website and then expect thousands of visitors to come flocking to it.

It doesn’t work that way. And it’s pretty frustrating, right? You’ve probably dabbled in social media. You may have even written a few blog posts.

But nobody comes to visit. And you’re probably about to lose your mind.

To add salt to the wound, you have probably seen many business owners make it look easy. How do they get so many visitors and subscribers?

Here’s reality: it’s not easy at all. Building a strong online presence takes a lot of time and hard work. But that’s not all. It also requires you to make sure you’re taking the right steps. After all, you don’t want to waste time working hard on something that isn’t going to get you anywhere, do you?

Online Branding Steps

That’s what this post is about. In this post, I’m going to give you some basic pointers that will set you on the path to building a thriving online presence. You will learn the steps you need to take to begin earning more traffic, getting more subscribers, and converting customers.

Start Your Blog

If you have done any reading on online marketing, you’ve already learned why blogging is important for business owners. Blogs remain one of the most powerful tools for expanding your influence, building credibility, and getting more exposure for your business.

Businesses who blog earn tons more leads than those that don’t.

Here are some of the benefits of blogging:

  • Blogging improves your search engine rankings, making it easier for prospective clients to find your business online.
  • It increases the likelihood that prospects will become paying clients.
  • Blogs are a great way to build your email list.

So why don’t more entrepreneurs blog? Well, one of the reasons is because they believe it’s too hard to build and maintain one.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are steps you can follow to establish a high-quality blog.

Start Creating Content

After you have chosen your platform and web host, and your blog is completely set up, you need to start creating content. This is the part you’ve been waiting for, right?

Not so fast.

Before you start writing content you need to have a plan. You don’t want to just start writing whatever you feel like writing. You need to know what type of content you need to write.

Fortunately, this isn’t too hard. You just need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of information does my audience need? What questions are they asking?
  • What types of blog posts would work the best for my readers?
  • What have others in my industry written about? How can I take a unique approach?

Here’s the thing: you’re not just writing content for the sake of writing content. Each blog post you write needs to have one objective: to benefit your readers as much as possible.

People don’t read content that isn’t helpful. Chances are, if they came to your blog it’s because they believe you’re providing information that they need. You need to deliver the goods!

Create Your Social Media Strategy

Creating a blog is an important step, but it’s pretty much useless if nobody reads it, right? That’s where social media comes in.

Social media is the best way to promote your content and your business. It’s the tool you will use to attract visitors to your blog and your website. An effective social media strategy can get your website more exposure and enable you to interact with your audience.

Use The Right Social Media Platform

Before implementing a social media strategy, you need to know which platforms to use. Otherwise, you might be wasting a lot of time posting on platforms that your audience doesn’t use.

The key is to find out which services your target market is using the most. You have to understand the demographics that make up your audience. Fortunately, you may already know this if you’re familiar with your industry.

Social Media Marketing Is About Being Helpful

Just like writing content, your main objective when using social media should be to help as many people as you can. It’s not about just promoting your products and services. Social media should be used to share your content and engage with your prospective clients.

Now, I’m not saying that you should never use social media to promote your products and services. It’s a great way to create awareness of what your business offers. However, you don’t want to overdo it.

One effective method for sharing on social media is to use the 30/60/10 rule. Here’s how this works:

You don’t have to stick hard and fast to that ratio. You might find that tweaking it a bit will work better for your business. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Find out what’s most effective for you.

Build Your Email List

When you start earning more traffic from your content marketing and social media efforts, it’s time to start converting these visitors into subscribers. This is how you will build your online audience and keep in touch with your followers.

Not only is email marketing great for building and nurturing your audience, it’s a highly effective way to get more customers. Email marketing is 40 times more effective than using only social media to attract business.

Give A Compelling Offer

How many times have you visited a website and been offered something cool for free? No doubt you’ve probably downloaded at least a few ebooks, checklists, and other types of content from sites that had valuable information to share.

Chances are, you only had to type in your email address, then download the goods, right?

So why does this work? Well it’s a little thing called the “reciprocity principle.” It simply means that if you give something valuable to another person, they will be more willing to give you something that you want.

In order to get subscribers, you have to offer something valuable. You can’t expect your visitors to give you their highly-prized email address if they’re not going to get anything out of it.

The great thing about this is that it’s not too difficult. You just have to think of what types of information would be the most valuable to your visitors.

Here are a few examples of free offers you can give to your readers:

  • Ebooks
  • Cheat sheets
  • Checklists
  • White papers
  • A free consultation
  • A video teaching

Not too hard right? But here’s the key: it has to be something that goes deeper than the value you’re already providing on your blog. You have to give them a reason to want it.

Engage With Your Audience

After you have gained permission to contact your visitors, you need to engage with them. This is where you will develop your email marketing campaigns.

When email your list, you don’t want to send only promotional materials. Similar to social media campaigns, email marketing should be used to provide value to your readers. Otherwise, they will stop opening your emails. They may even unsubscribe.

You don’t want that, right?

Figure out ways you can give your readers more of what they want: helpful information. Here are some suggestions:

  • Send updates on your latest blog posts.
  • Give content that only your email list gets to see.
  • Ask for some feedback from your audience. It’s a great way to gain a deeper understanding of your subscribers.
  • Give your readers a “behind the scenes” look at what your business is doing.

When you’re focused on providing more value with your email marketing, your readers will be more likely to spend their money with you. You don’t want to send a ton of sales emails if you’re not also providing a benefit to your readers.

Conclusion

Building an online footprint isn’t easy. It does take time. You will need to work hard to promote your website and build a healthy following. Most businesses don’t get instant results.

But if you’re consistent, you will be able to build an engaged audience. It does require perseverance, but when you finally start getting more clients, the hard work will pay off.

Computer User Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Most Important Steps To Establishing Your Brand Online  " was first published on Small Business Trends

More Consumers Can Soon Try Grocery Delivery From Amazon (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 16:30

Grocery delivery is a growing trend in markets around the U.S. But some of those who could most benefit from getting their groceries delivered, like those living in food deserts, can’t afford it.

That’s about to change in a few select communities though. Amazon and six other companies are taking part in a pilot program to deliver groceries to families on SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Families on the program can use their SNAP funds to purchase eligible healthy items from Amazon, like vegetables and meat. They then pay only service and delivery fees to get their food items delivered right to their front doors.

The program is slated to last for two years. And at that point, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may choose to expand it to even more states.

For the companies like Amazon that are participating, this program also presents a unique opportunity. It introduces more customers to grocery delivery services who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to consider them.

The Benefits of Market Testing

It doesn’t matter whether your small business has  the opportunity to participate in a government program or not. It’s a good idea to find ways to serve customers who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to your products or services. That includes customers who might not ordinarily be able to afford what your business provides.

Those customers still represent an untapped market. And finding ways to serve them ultimately can bring more revenue to your bottom line.

Perhaps you could dream up a more affordable version of your product or service or find a non-profit or other organization to help defray the cost. Either way, you’re increasing your customer base and the potential word of mouth your business gets in the community. So there’s plenty of positives to consider.

Delivery Drone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "More Consumers Can Soon Try Grocery Delivery From Amazon (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

28 Percent of Obamacare Customers are Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 14:30

If Obamacare is repealed without a replacement, two groups are likely to be upset, small business owners and more specifically the self-employed or those in the gig economy.

Coincidentally, those people may be among voters who helped elect Donald Trump — an outspoken advocate of repeal — into office. Of course, they are also undoubtedly among the same people who were essentially priced out of truly affordable healthcare coverage prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The Ties Between Obamacare and Small Businesses

New data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Treasury Department shows that more than one in five Affordable Care Act Marketplace customers in 2014 was a small business owner or self-employed entrepreneur. That’s about 28 percent of signups overall.

That equates to 1.4 million Obamacare customers who identify as small business owners or as self-employed. In 2014, the first year the federal mandate to purchase ACA coverage was enforced on individuals, there were a total of 5.3 million ACA customers.

The Treasury Department report indicates that enrollments in ACA Marketplace plans rose by 50 percent from 2014 to 2015. There was a larger increase from 2015 to last year.

And even though the federal government admitted that premiums were increasing on Obamacare plans in 2017, there have reportedly been record sign-ups since that announcement.

It should be noted that the Affordable Care Act was a key Presidential campaign issue. And it’s on the campaign trail where President-elect Donald Trump coined the phrase “Repeal and Replace” to describe his plan for Obamacare once he took office.

And even before Trump takes office, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to de-fund federal obligations — the repeal part of the plan — tied to the Affordable Care Act.

HHS and Treasury Department reports that the 10 states with the highest share of small business owners relying on Obamacare coverage (in 2014) were Vermont, Idaho, Florida, Montana, Maine, California, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, and North Carolina.

The states with the most small business owners purchasing Obamacare coverage in 2014 were those with the highest populations, mostly: California, Florida, Texas, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington, and Virginia.

President Barack Obama Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "28 Percent of Obamacare Customers are Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs" was first published on Small Business Trends

20 Chicken Franchises to Conquer Chick-Fil-A

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 13:00

The chicken franchise business is exploding. Chick-Fil-A has established itself as the top brand in this space, surpassing even KFC. And it’s becoming so popular that the segment as a whole has become major competition for other fast food restaurants like McDonald’s.

If you’re interested in getting involved in this growing segment of the franchise industry, there are plenty of options for you to consider. Here are 20 different chicken franchises to take on Chick-Fil-A.

Check Out These Chicken Franchises KFC

Despite being eclipsed by Chick-Fil-A, KFC remains probably the most recognizable name in the chicken franchise game. To get started, you’ll need at least $1.5 million in total net worth, with $750,000 in liquid assets. But you get to benefit from the nationwide marketing campaigns and strong brand recognition the company has cultivated.

Popeyes

Popeyes is a brand known for its southern style chicken and side dish options. The company requires a $35,000 franchise fee and $12,500 development fee up front, with a five percent royalty fee and four percent marketing fee going forward.

El Pollo Loco

If you’re looking for more of a southwest fare for your franchise opportunity, El Pollo Loco might be the right choice for you. The average initial investment is between $900,000 and $1,755,000. And the company provides support with real estate, training, marketing and more.

Church’s Chicken

Church’s Chicken has made over $1.2 million in system-wide sales, making it one of the most popular chicken franchise options out there. The company also provides ongoing support to franchisees, including training and marketing services.

Boston Market

Boston Market is a franchise that offers rotisserie chicken and other specialty items. And the company is open to franchise opportunities in both traditional and non-traditional locations.

Bojangles’

It’s Bo time! Specializing in chicken and biscuits, Bojangles’ requires a $25,000 franchise fee and a total net worth of over $1 million to get started. The company offers opportunities for both single and multi-unit franchises and provides support in several areas in exchange for a four percent royalty fee.

Zaxby’s

Zaxby’s is a chicken restaurant with locations throughout Georgia and parts of the southeast. And it’s looking to expand even further into new territories. Potential franchisees need to have a collective net worth of at least $1 million to be considered.

Wingstop

Wingstop is a dine-in and carryout restaurant that specializes in chicken wings. The company is looking for franchisees who are able to open at least three locations. And a net worth of at least $1.2 million is required.

Bush’s Chicken

Bush’s Chicken is a restaurant chain looking to expand in select states across the U.S. If you have restaurant experience and a strong business plan, you can get more information about the opportunity from Bush’s.

Chester’s Chicken

Specializing in fried chicken dishes, Chester’s offers franchise opportunities for various location types, including convenience stores, supermarkets and more. The up-front costs can vary based on the type of location. But the company provides support and nationwide brand recognition.

Brewster’s Chicken

Offering chicken sandwiches and similar menu items, Brewster’s Chicken is a restaurant chain that offers relatively inexpensive opportunities. Some start as low as $175,000 for the initial investment.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings is a popular restaurant chain specializing in chicken wings and more. Though the company isn’t currently accepting new franchisees in the U.S., it does have some international opportunities available.

East Coast Wings + Grill

Launched in North Carolina in 1995, East Coast Wings + Grill is a restaurant chain that is currently accepting new franchisees in select states throughout the U.S. The initial franchise fee is $40,000. And the total initial investment can range from $655,875 to $1,005,974.

Golden Chick

Golden Chick is a brand that has been around for more than 50 years. As a franchisee, you’ll get access to the company’s proprietary recipes, as well as site selection assistance, marketing and field support.

Hurricane Grill & Wings

This restaurant chain is known for its chicken wings and full menu. Hurricane Grill + Wings has had positive comp sales for seven years in a row and currently has 80 restaurants either open or under construction in 15 states.

The Chickery

The Chickery specializes in chicken dishes that use fresh ingredients. A Canadian franchise, the Chickery’s locations are currently mostly around Toronto. But the company is expanding into U.S. markets and beyond as well.

Wow Cafe

With chicken wings as one of its main menu items, Wow Cafe offers a solid franchise opportunity for those looking to enter the chicken business. The company lets franchisees customize their menus and offers different models ranging from full service restaurants to food trucks.

Wings Etc.

Wings Etc. is a sports bar franchise with wings as one of the main attractions. The company offers operational training and field support to franchisees. And the fees are competitive for the industry, with a $34,500 franchise fee and five percent royalty fee.

Bonchon Chicken

With Asian inspired flavors and franchise locations in countries around the world, Bonchon Chicken gives franchisees a more international option. It costs between $300,000 and $750,000 to get started, depending on a number of different factors.

Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken

Since 1966, Lee’s has been providing chicken to consumers in the U.S. For franchisees, the company provides operational support, management training and volume pricing.

Fried Chicken Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "20 Chicken Franchises to Conquer Chick-Fil-A" was first published on Small Business Trends

Discord Offers Potential Business Collaboration Features — at No Cost!

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 11:30

Even though Discord was created to give gamers a highly-secure all-in-one voice and text chat app for free, it can easily be applied for business use to enable collaboration.

Setting up Discord, the Free Collaboration Tool

In as little as 10 seconds, you can set up Discord if you choose to run it on your browser. If you want better performance and more functionality, you can download it on your Windows or OSX computer. Once you have it on your device, you create what are called “Servers” to bring all of your team in so you can communicate and share information.

Creating a Server

You create a server by clicking the “+” button in your dashboard, which is located in the left side column. You then name the Server, choose your region, and click create. You can create as many Servers as you want, which is a great option to keep your different business communications separate.

Inviting Users to Your Server

Inviting people to your Server lets you text chat and talk to them for free. All you have to do is open the Server of your choice and click the icon that says Instant Invite. An invite code is generated, which you can send to as many people as you want. This can be a permanent invite or it can expire in 30 minutes.

Setting Permissions

After inviting the people you want to your Server, it is important to set permissions. This assigns roles to users with a hierarchy so the information and conversations you have are protected. Under the server settings menu, you can create roles and assign permission to the roles with different parameters for each member.

 

Discord is loaded with features, including IP and DDoS protection. And although it was not created for business application, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use it for that purpose. After all, it is free.

Image: Discord

This article, "Discord Offers Potential Business Collaboration Features — at No Cost!" was first published on Small Business Trends

Could Businesses Eventually Face Overtime, Flexibility Backlash?

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 10:30

Advancements in technology and connectivity have undeniably swept in a new golden era for remote working. Last year, 38 percent of Americans were permitted to work from home at least one day a week (PDF) — and almost half of all professionals considered leaving their jobs due to a lack of flexibility.

Yet while generous remote working opportunities may attract top talent and foster a positive office culture, some industries have started to experience an unexpected backlash from encouraging remote working.

The biggest issue has been the overtime expectations that appear to come hand-in-hand with flexible work options.

Because more and more companies have begun to offer remote working as an office perk, there’s been a recent spike in the number of professional positions that are overtime exempt. As a result, workers in America, Europe and Asia have all complained of the introduction of unrealistic overtime demands across a wide range of industries — leading to government intervention, legal battles and more.

Here in the U.S., the Department of Labor has been attempting to issue a new Overtime Rule designed to increase the minimum salary for overtime exempt employees from $23,660 to $47,892 per year in order to compensate for unlogged hours. That particular policy was scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016, but a federal judge issued an injunction blocking the policy in November amidst objections from business leaders.

The resuscitation of the rule seems unlikely under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Across the Atlantic, another court battle in France saw workers earn the “right to disconnect” and refuse to check their work emails after business hours without the fear of being penalized by employers.

In December, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare unveiled plans to establish a new office dedicated to addressing excessive labor after the suicide of an advertising employee whose death was directly linked to being overworked.

Bearing all this in mind, business owners would do well to take it upon themselves to tread carefully in terms of how best to approach the introduction of remote working opportunities.

It’s true that workers value flexibility. Studies indicate professionals are more content and more productive when they’re permitted the ability to work when and where they’d like. For many companies, that increase in morale and efficiency may be foolish to ignore.

Yet as flexible working patterns become more commonplace, it will fall on employers and their staff to strike a reasonable balance between flexibility and out-of-office and overtime expectations. Because if flexibility becomes an excuse for unreasonable demands on employees’ time, evidence suggests the results could be a talent exodus, legal action or worse.

Overtime Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Could Businesses Eventually Face Overtime, Flexibility Backlash?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Spotlight: #getfried Fry Cafe Makes French Fries a Main Course

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 09:30

When you think of French fries, you probably picture them next to a hamburger or other dish. But now, fries can actually stand on their own as a main course thanks to #getfried Fry Cafe.

Read more about this new spin on fries and the business behind it in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Offers french fries with a twist.

Founder Chris Covelli told Small Business Trends, “#getfried Fry Cafe is a quick-serve restaurant franchise specializing in gourmet topped French fries and finger foods for the on-the-go consumer. The concept offers six types of fries: hand cut, coated straight cut, seasoned waffle, curly, sweet potato and funnel cake fries. Fries can then be customized with shredded chicken, ground beef or chili, and topped with chipotle seasoning, gravy, Nutella, hummus or truffle oil.”

Business Niche

Variety.

Covelli says, “Many competing concepts serve one type of fry. We have six. This offers greater variety and endless customization, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction.”

How the Business Got Started

Because of an untapped market.

Covelli explains, “I was introduced to French fry cafes in the Netherlands and Canada, and realized the U.S. market was relatively untapped for similar gourmet French fry restaurants. We opened the first #getfried location … in Buffalo, NY in 2015, and now have two locations in Western New York and one in San Antonio, Texas, with others under development.”

Biggest Win

Signing its first franchise agreement in San Antonio, Texas.

Covelli says, “The group is led by Craig Christopher, a veteran of the restaurant and hospitality industry and former Subway Sandwiches franchise owner. Interested in going into business for himself, he was attracted to #getfried because of the reasonable franchise and development costs, simple operations and edgy brand strategy.”

Biggest Risk

Opening in a Buffalo shopping mall.

Covelli explains, “Shopping malls in Buffalo depend heavily on Canadian shoppers, and in the past year and a half, the Canadian dollar has weakened. Opening our first location in a mall was a risky move considering the decline in Canadian visitors, but #getfried was a strong concept and the first location was a huge success among consumers — leading us to open a second #getfried in Buffalo shortly afterward.”

Lesson Learned

Take advantage of growing trends.

Covelli says, “Food trucks are becoming increasingly popular among consumers, and also yield a lower startup cost. If the franchise concept debuted with a food truck, we could have built brand awareness and demand in the region at a lower cost before rolling out a brick-and-mortar location. #getfried now operates a successful food truck in San Antonio, and also expects to debut one in Buffalo, NY in the coming months.”

Special Event

Fry eating contest!

Covelli says, “To celebrate the grand opening of the first #getfried location, we held a French fry eating contest in the main lobby of the mall. Ten contestants had to eat three large, loaded fry baskets in less than 10 minutes. It was estimated that the three baskets combined weighed between five and seven pounds!”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: #getfried Fry Cafe; Top Image: Chris Covelli

This article, "Spotlight: #getfried Fry Cafe Makes French Fries a Main Course" was first published on Small Business Trends

Boxed Offers Bulk Shopping Online for Businesses

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 08:30

Cutting out the time it takes to actually go and buy your business supplies hasn’t been a reality until recently. But ordering your supplies from your PC or smartphone through a service called Boxed, can give you back hours you can devote to making your company better.

What is Boxed?

You can describe Boxed as the Costco or Sam’s Club of the digital world, except there is no membership fee and you don’t have to drive anywhere to get the things you need.

The company sells a curated list of bulk items across a wide range of products and delivers it to your home or office in one to two days. The first order ships free with a minimum purchase of $29, and future orders will also require a minimum purchase based on your location in order to get free shipping. If you don’t meet the minimum requirement, there will be a shipping cost, which again will depend on your location.

What Can You Order for Your Business?

It is important to note this is not an office supply company, however you will be able to get printing paper, pens, pencils, Post-it, scotch tape, Sharpies and more. You can also order cleaning supplies, snacks, cups, coffee and other supplies a business needs. This is in addition to groceries, beverage, bath and body, health and children’s products.

The Savings of Bulk Shopping Online

Checking the price on two items found on Boxed with Amazon reveals a considerable savings. For example, compare just two items available through the two services. First, 3M Post-it Notes Greener Notes are listed for $25.99 while the same product is offered for $19.99 from Boxed. Meanwhile, HP All-In-One Printing Paper is offered for $21.37 on Amazon while Boxed offers it for $7.99.

Boxed and the Future

The future of Boxed is looking bright as it continues to get rounds of funding in the tens of millions of dollars, with a total of $132M to date. If the company continues to deliver this type of price differential with the convenience of online shopping, it could be a choice worth exploring for your business needs.

Image: Boxed

This article, "Boxed Offers Bulk Shopping Online for Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Is Strengths-Based Employee Development Right for Your Business?

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 07:30

The traditional approach to employee development is to focus on employees’ weaknesses and how they can improve them. For example, if an employee works better alone than on a team, you’d probably tell him he needs to focus on getting better at teamwork. Recently, however, a new approach to employee development is making waves: strengths-based employee development.

As the name implies, strengths-based employee development focuses on what employees’ strengths are and builds on them, rather than trying to correct weaknesses. There are several ways a small business owner can benefit from using strengths-based employee development.

  • While a weakness-focused approach seeks to bring everyone up to a basic uniform level, a strengths-based approach will develop a diverse team with a wide range of specialized strengths. This can give your business a real competitive edge.
  • Because it focuses on what employees are good at, rather than what they aren’t, it motivates and energizes employees.
  • It makes employees feel important and valued as individuals. That’s especially effective with Millennial employees, who make up an increasing percentage of the workforce. Millennials like to feel they are making their mark from the minute they join your business. By focusing on their strengths, you enable them to contribute right away.
How to Use Strengths-Based Employee Development

Here are five steps to using strengths-based employee development in your business.

Step 1. Identify your company’s strengths. Are you innovative, dependable or fun? Just like a person, if your business is trying to be something it’s not, you’ll work harder but achieve poor results and feel dissatisfied along the way. By knowing your business’ strengths, you can use your employees’ strengths to build on them.

Step 2. Identify your employees’ strengths. There are several ways to do this. Start by sitting down with employees one-on-one to discuss their strengths. Just asking, “what do you think your strengths are?” may not produce anything very useful. If that’s the case, try asking these questions:

  • What do you look forward to doing most at work every morning?
  • Is there something you do at work where the time seems to fly by?
  • What do you most enjoy doing in your time off?
  • What did you enjoy doing most at previous jobs?

You can also ask employees to identify each other’s strengths — kind of like a 360-degree performance review, but focused only on the positive. There are also online assessments to help you pinpoint your own and your employees’ strengths. The Clifton StrengthFinder is popular; it was developed by the Gallup Organization as part of a 30-year study of the strength-based approach to management.

Step 3. Match employees’ strengths to their tasks. You can assign employees to specific tasks based on the strengths you’ve uncovered, or you can also just explain something that needs to be done and ask who would like to do it. When employees volunteer for jobs, they’re more likely to choose tasks that play to their strengths.

This part of implementing strengths-based employee development may involve some trial and error. Chances are you’re going to have to move employees around to different positions or assign different types of tasks to see what their true strengths are.

Once you have a clear understanding of each person’s strengths, you’ll be able to better group employees in teams for projects or tasks. The ideal team involves people with a diverse range of strengths. For example, if everyone on a team is good at strategizing and planning, but no one is good at executing, you’re going to be in trouble. Diverse strength will also lead to more creative thinking and new approaches to problems.

Step 4. Provide ongoing feedback. Whether you’re praising an employee in front of the team or in a performance review, it typically goes something like this: “Steve, you did a great job planning and overseeing our customer recognition luncheon.” This type of feedback focuses on how well a task was completed. Strengths-based employee development goes a step further: “Steve, you did a great job planning and overseeing our customer recognition luncheon. It really showcased your strengths at organizing, coordinating and relationship-building.”

Step 5. Make public recognition of strengths part of your day-to-day business. For strengths-based development to really work, employees need to be aware of each other’s’ strengths as well as their own. That’s why it’s important to publicly recognize employees not only for their achievements, but also for their strengths.

You should also encourage employees to give each other feedback and recognition for strengths: “Thank you for helping with the new marketing campaign. Your creative strengths really helped us think outside the box.”

How does strengths-based employee development sound to you? Do you already use this approach?

Strength Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is Strengths-Based Employee Development Right for Your Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends

7 Positive Traits Productive People Share

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-01-18 06:00

We all struggle with feeling like we’re not as productive as we should be.  But really, any discussion of productivity must begin with a definition.  You see, productivity isn’t necessarily about doing more, working more or spending more energy.  Productivity is really about accomplishing what’s necessary and doing it as efficiently as possible.

So productivity isn’t about working longer or harder.  It’s about working better, working smarter.  So how do you go about it?  Let’s take a look at eight traits that super productive people all share.

How to Be Productive Everyday 1. Make Lists 

I have a pretty good memory.  I used to pride myself on the amount of information I could recall.  But then I realized that I was spending way more energy than I should have been on remembering important stuff.  It turns out that productive people don’t waste brainpower on remembering stuff.  They write it down so they can use that energy elsewhere.  Old school list making frees your brain up for more important work.  And it also ensures you won’t forget things.

2. Eliminate Distractions 

Multitasking is a myth.  We think we’re so clever, juggling twelve tasks at once, but productive people know better.  Switching from task to task requires refocusing, and it takes time.  In many cases, you’re better off clearing your desk, computer and mind of competing work and focusing on doing one thing at a time.  Set aside periodic breaks in which you can manage email and demands for your attention, and when you get back to work, shut down your notifications.

3. Eliminate Bottlenecks 

When you’re feeling frustrated by your difficulty in accomplishing as much as you’d like, sometimes it helps to take a step back and look at your workflow.  Identifying the steps in your company’s processes where work gets hung up can clue you in to the changes you need to make work flow more smoothly.  Identify the causes of your bottlenecks and eradicate them.

4. Don’t Get Hung Up On Perfection 

Yes, there are times when only flawless work will do, but in most cases, doing a really good job is sufficient.  If you’re insisting on polishing absolutely everything to perfection, you’re wasting time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere.  Know when good enough is good enough.

5. Work to Your Strengths 

Yes, I know most of us think we’re superheroes.  But let’s face it … we can’t do everything equally well.  Identifying your weaknesses (hint – it’s usually the things you hate to do or that take you forever) and hiring staff who have strengths that complement yours can let you delegate tasks and get back to doing what you’re good at.

6. Listen to Criticism 

When my wife called me a workaholic, it took me a while to realize that she didn’t mean it as a compliment.  She saw me slaving away, working way too many hours, and she recognized that I needed to make some changes or risk burning out.  When I looked at the big picture, I realized how right she was.  Hearing her criticism forced me to confront the ways in which I wasn’t working as smart as I should.

7. Cross That Finish Line 

Over and over, I see capable people who work hard only to slack off once they near their deadline.  Resolve to finish strong, and you may even find yourself beating deadlines and producing work of better quality.

I encourage you to look around you.  Find the productive people in your life and see what you can learn from their habits.

Productive Team Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "7 Positive Traits Productive People Share" was first published on Small Business Trends