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US shoppers sound off on creepy vs cool

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2016-06-20 13:40

Mobile technology is fueling retailers' ability to personalize the shopping experience, but not all efforts are greeted by shoppers with the same enthusiasm. Some initiatives are considered "cool" and others deemed "creepy," according to a new study.

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EaseCentral Makes Managing Benefits Enrollment Simpler, Cheaper

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 13:30

EaseCentral, makers of a cloud-based HR and employee benefits technology platform, recently launched a way for small businesses — those with 100 employees or fewer — to save an enormous amount of time in getting new hires signed up for insurance benefits.

The platform utilizes what’s known as an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) connection that enables the instant transfer of information using a standardized electronic format that has been in place since the 1970s.

Streamlining Benefits Enrollment How EaseCentral’s EDI Platform Works

In a telephone interview with Small Business Trends, EaseCentral CEO David Reid explained how EDI works and the benefits it provides small businesses.

“Currently, small businesses and insurance brokers are faced with the challenge of compiling data manually into spreadsheets and presenting materials in a digestible format,” Reid said. “With this current model, employees are lost in the process of finding the best and most tailored health care options for them with clear and definitive pricing.”

EaseCentral’s cloud-based software platform makes employee benefits simple and manageable by offering an automated paperless enrollment process and providing an easy onboarding and offboarding solution, Reid said.

“What used to take two to three weeks to process through the use of paper forms can now be done in minutes online,” he said. “Employees get their ID number in an instant, making them eligible to take advantage of their benefits immediately.”

Up to now, use of EDI connections was the purview of enterprise organizations, which have lots of data to transmit at any given time.

“Large companies save time with EDI because no one wants to key in information for 1,000s of employees,” Reid said. “But that’s not efficient for a small business with, say, 12 employees. The insurance carriers don’t want to create an EDI connection that takes more time to build than handling paperwork, especially when the business may not have a single enrollment in a year. It’s just easier to do paperwork.”

Reid went on to say that if you could take tens of thousands of small businesses and put their data into a single file, you have the economies of scale that large companies have enjoyed for years — which is exactly what his company did.

“That’s where EaseCentral broke the ice,” he said. “We’re now live with a limited group of providers but plan to expand to include others over the next few months.”

Reid said this new technology changes the landscape of what benefits purchases and management is going to be like in the next few years. He predicts that a transition will take place within the next 36 months to where EDI is the norm for how small businesses manage employee benefits enrollment.

Those that have adopted its use say the efficiencies, cost savings and consumer response are “overwhelmingly positive,” Reid said.

“EDI is the future of this business for small companies,” he said. “Large enterprises have been doing it this way forever. Now, it’s available to small businesses, starting in California and expanding to other states over the next few months.”

EaseCentral EDI Platform Benefits

Reid appears to be correct in his claim that EaseCentral’s software platform and new EDI capabilities make managing employee benefits simpler.

Health insurance and benefits professionals can pull quotes and compare information from multiple carriers instantly from any desktop or mobile device. Employees are then able to take the decision-making process into their own hands, push the “Start Enrollment” button and set up their group in the enrollment system.

The platform verifies enrollment applications, which helps ensure there are no typographical errors or invalid information, which could cause delays. That guarantees quicker access to healthcare benefits and providers. It also provides post-sale service issues mitigation for benefits brokers, employers and employees.

EaseCentral EDI Platform Designed for Brokers

Insurance brokers are the primary customers for EaseCentral’s solution, most of whom are small businesses themselves.

The company’s scalable pricing model reflects its small business orientation. Subscriptions start at $249 per month, and that allows use with up to 1,000 employees. At $499 per month, up to 5,000 employees can use the platform. For $999 per month, brokers have no limit on the number they can enroll.

Typically, brokers let their clients — HR professionals and benefits administrators — use the platform at no or little cost, seeing it as an added incentive that enables the broker to keep the client on board.

“EaseCentral allows small and mid-size agencies the technical tools to compete with much larger firms, at an affordable price,” said Tim Haley, vice president of broker sales at HealthPartners, a company planning to use the platform, in a press release announcing the launch. ”The ability to shop, quote and enroll from a single source is a great feature for brokers.”

EaseCentral currently has 22,000 companies with more than 400,000 employees on the platform. The average case size is under 20 employees, so it very much aligns with the small business world.

The company is now in 21 states, although the EDI system itself is only in use by Anthem Blue Cross of California at present. It will be partnering with Limelight Health and HealthPartners starting in July. Plans are to expand to other carriers and states over the next few months.

Visit the EaseCentral website or YouTube channel to learn more.

Image: EaseCentral

This article, "EaseCentral Makes Managing Benefits Enrollment Simpler, Cheaper" was first published on Small Business Trends

Walmart sells online operations in China

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2016-06-20 13:17

Walmart has formed a strategic alliance with JD.com that includes the sale of its online operations in China.

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Spotlight: Paris mayor ticked off at Amazon

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2016-06-20 12:18

The news that Amazon is expanding Prime Now to Paris elicited a stern warning and threat of legal action from the city's Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who worried that the service would harm local merchants and add to Paris' pollution problem.

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Report: Neiman Marcus looking for a buyer

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2016-06-20 12:11

Struggling luxury retailer Neiman Marcus is out looking for an investor or buyer, according to a source close to the matter.

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10 Loans for Woman Owned Small Businesses and How to Apply

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 12:00

It’s not always easy being a woman entrepreneur, especially when you are trying to raise funds for your business.

According to research (PDF) from Babson College, sponsored by Ernst & Young, 85 percent of the 6,793 businesses funded by venture capital between 2011 and 2013 had no women on the executive team at all. This at a time when women entrepreneurs have proved they are a force to be reckoned with.

It goes without saying the situation needs to improve to support more women entrepreneurs. There are, however, some sources of business loans for women entrepreneurs that are worth looking at.

Loans for Woman Owned Small Businesses and How to Apply for Each KeyBank

The bank offers funding through Key4Women, a nationwide network of women entrepreneurs who cater to the various needs of women-owned businesses.

The Key4Women program is aimed at providing women entrepreneurs with capital, customized financial solutions and educational and networking opportunities. Since 2005, KeyBank has lent more than $6 billion to women entrepreneurs.

How to Apply?

To access funding for your business, you need to become a Key4Women member first. To get started, enroll here.

Women’s Venture Fund

Women’s Venture Fund is a flexible, simple solution to fund your small business. For first-time women entrepreneurs, Women’s Venture Fund assists by calculating loan needs through a comprehensive consultation process. This approach allows you to properly understand how much financing your business actually needs.

The organization funds businesses based on factors such as number of clients, sales, contracts and the availability of other accessible resources.

How to Apply?

The funding process starts with your written plan that should explain how you secure clients, your track record and what you project as future sales. Based on your requirements, Women’s Venture Fund develops the most comprehensive roadmap for your business growth.

Submit your loan application here.

Women’s Economic Ventures Loan Program

The Women’s Economic Ventures Loan Program was established by Women’s Economic Ventures back in 1995. Today, the loan program helps those women-owned small businesses that do not qualify for traditional bank financing to diversify and expand. The loans are typically targeted at low and moderate income women.

For startups, loans in the range of $1,000 and $25,000 are available, whereas for expansions the organization offers loans between $5,000 and $50,000. Funds can be used to make fixed asset purchases, physical improvements of the place of business and to meet operating expenses.

Interest on the loan is fixed at a rate of 10-15 percent.

How to Apply?

You don’t require a business plan or presentation to apply for loans under $5,000. Such loans can be approved within 3-4 weeks after you submit your application.

For loans over $5,000, you need to submit a business plan and get an approval from the Loan Committee. Such loans are generally approved 6-8 weeks after the submission of the application.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is one of the leading lenders to women-owned businesses here in the United States. The company offers financial solutions designed to support women-owned small businesses.

Whether your company is well-established or just getting started, Wells Fargo business credit card can cater to your needs.

You can opt for loans and lines of credit to manage your cash flow during seasonal or business fluctuations, or simply borrow funds for special projects such as making equipment purchases, remodeling or business expansion.

How to Apply?

To be eligible, your business should be at least 51 percent, operated and controlled by female individual(s) with U.S. citizenship.

Operation HOPE Small Business Empowerment Program

The Operation HOPE Small Business Empowerment Program is aimed at helping women from low-wealth neighborhoods realize their entrepreneurial dreams. By partnering with over 25 direct lenders across the U.S., the program offers a range of business loan options as well as resources, information and more.

How to Apply?

For information on eligibility criteria and more, visit their website.

Opportunity Fund

If you own a California-based small business, you may want to consider Opportunity Fund. The organization offers loans of between $20,000 and $100,000 to California businesses. Funds can be used for working capital, equipment purchase, remodels and more.

Interest rates range between 8.5-10 percent, with a repayment term of up to five years.

How to Apply?

To be eligible, you should be in business for at least one year. You shouldn’t have any current credit delinquencies, open tax liens or open bankruptcies. You must also provide collateral to be eligible for the loan.

Balboa Capital

Balboa Capital offers a host of loan options with high approval rates for women entrepreneurs. These include working capital loans, flexible small business loans, business cash advances and equipment financing.

How to Apply?

To get started, you need to first provide your business, owner information and wait for your application to get approved. To complete the application process, click here.

Economic Opportunities Fund (EOF)

Looking to start a new business, or struggling to get a loan? The Economic Opportunities Fund (EOF) is an option you should be taking a look at. A subsidiary of WORC, EOF offers loans, investment products and services to businesses in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area, with a special focus on women.

The fund offers startup loans in the range of $500-$2,500 and lines of credit of up to $2,500. It also provides loans between $2,500 and $10,000 for business expansion.

How to Apply?

You need to fill out the loan application form (PDF) and submit it along with all the requisite documents. Check the product and borrower eligibility pages to know if you meet the specific criteria for the product you are looking for.

PNC Financial Services

Financial solutions provider PNC is also focused on catering to the funding needs of women-owned businesses. The company has trained over 1,700 women’s business advocates who work closely with women-owned businesses.

It provides business term loans to enable businesses to purchase assets or meet specific financing need. Loans can be unsecured, or secured by collateral. Interest rates are generally fixed for the life of the loan.

How to Apply?

The application process is easy. You need to simply provide basic information about your business and check out the eligibility criteria of the product you are interested in.

Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC)

The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation provides loans of up to $250,000 to small and micro businesses. The organization works closely with women entrepreneurs to analyze their financial needs and guides them through the loan process.

How to Apply?

To qualify, your business should operate in the state of Wisconsin and have a successful track record. Entrepreneurs with extensive experience in the industry have stronger chances of qualifying for the loan. You should also have a written business plan and a strong credit history.

Woman at Bank Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Loans for Woman Owned Small Businesses and How to Apply" was first published on Small Business Trends

Costco converts to Visa

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2016-06-20 11:35

Costco has completed its much anticipated conversion from Costco-branded American Express credit cards to cards issued by Citi, and now accepts only Visa cards.

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Wearables shipments expected to grow 29%

Store Front Talk Back - Mon, 2016-06-20 10:32

Wearables are on the rise and are expected to grow 29 percent this year to nearly 102 million units, and that growth trajectory is expected to more than double in units shipped by 2020, according to IDC.

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POLL: What Best Describes the State of Your Online Presence?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 10:30

Recently we shared some new data from SurePayroll that showed an alarming number of small businesses are not ecommerce ready.

In fact, a full 74 percent of small businesses say they have no ecommerce on their website and do not use their site to conduct transactions at all.

OK, it’s a relatively newer concept — ecommerce, that is — but perhaps a second alarm sounded when the same data showed that almost half of all small businesses surveyed — 42 percent, to be exact — said the Web is not really that important to their business.

And an astounding 28 percent of the small businesses asked said they didn’t even have a website.

So, we want to know what our readers’ Web presence currently is. We’re asking:

Which of the Phrases Below Best Describes Your Online Presence?

Here are your choices:

Have No Website

You’ve got no time or money for a website or you don’t think having a site will benefit your business at all.

Only Listed with an Online Directory

You don’t own your own site just yet but you’ve listed your store or company with a service like Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, YP, etc.

Simple Website

You either bought a domain name and used a simple do-it-yourself template or you paid someone to create a simple website for you and your business. It’s nothing fancy but does contain some basic information about your business.

Website and Social Media

You’ve gone beyond the basic website and have branched into social media. You’ve either set up a Facebook Page, a Twitter handle or some other social media channel and are using it regularly to update customers and drive traffic to your site.

Website with Ecommerce

You’re ahead of the curve as far as Web development goes. You may simply be taking orders for a few products, selling a single download or ebook or allowing customers to easily pay for one or more of your services online. Or you may have a full-blown store full or merchandise or a large menu of services from which your clients can choose. But one thing’s for sure. You’ve gone way beyond a simple website and Facebook page!

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

Want to tell us more? Give us details about your answer above.  Tell us more about the website you’ve chosen for your business and why in the comments section below.

Online Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "POLL: What Best Describes the State of Your Online Presence?" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Tips for Getting Your Team From Good to Great

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 09:30

What distinguishes “good” businesses from “great” ones? Often, it’s the employees. But are you unknowingly throwing up roadblocks that can prevent your team from doing great work? A recent study (PDF) by OC Tanner explores what employees need to achieve great things, and what holds them back from doing so. Here’s what you can learn — and how you can set your team up for greatness.

Improving Employee Performance How Wide is the Gap Between Expectations and Reality?

Nearly eight out of 10 respondents in the survey believe all employees should do great work. But fewer than six in 10 think all employees actually take responsibility for doing great work. The older employees are, the more likely they are to believe that everyone should do great work — and the less likely they are to feel that people actually are doing great work. Baby boomers were most likely to see a huge gap between their expectations and reality.

What’s Holding Employees Back?

Both emotional/psychological and resource factors hold employees back from performing great work. A lack of resources is a major stumbling block for employees on the lower levels of a company. At the higher levels (manager and above), more than 80 percent of employees say they are encouraged to think about new ways of doing things, have time to think about process improvements, and have adequate resources to be innovative. Among individual employees below the manager level, however, just 43 percent believe they have adequate resources to innovate, and only 57 percent say they have enough time to think about ways to improve processes in their companies.

Emotional factors play a role as well. Only 52 percent of individual employees below the manager level feel they are encouraged to think about new ways of doing things in their jobs. Employees on the front lines, in particular, often feel like “cogs in the machine.” Because they don’t see the value of their work to the company’s overall mission, they don’t feel that anyone expects them to produce great work, and they don’t take responsibility for doing so. As a result, only 68 percent feel a sense of ownership about their work, just 56 percent believe their work regularly goes beyond expectations and a measly 37 percent feel their work provides value to the company.

What Difference Can High Expectations Make?

Setting high expectations and holding employees to them can make a huge difference. Employees in the study who worked at companies where all employees were thought capable of performing great work, and who actually took the responsibility to do great work, saw a productivity increase of 14 percent on average.

What Can You Do to Take Your Team from Good to Great?

OC Tanner suggests the following steps to inspire greatness in your team:

  • Set clear expectations — not just for individual employees or departments, but also for the company as a whole.
  • Ensure that employees understand how their particular jobs contribute to the company’s overall mission, and the value their individual work has.
  • Recognize employees for doing great work, and share their accomplishments with the rest of the team. Celebrating great work will encourage more of it.
  • Talk to employees to find out if they have ideas they aren’t sharing that could improve your company. Make sure they have the time they need to think about ways to innovate, and the resources they need to bring those ideas to fruition.
  • Focus on non-managerial and younger (Millennial) employees. These groups, in particular, need encouragement and reassurance that they are not only capable of doing great work, but expected to do so.

High Five Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Tips for Getting Your Team From Good to Great" was first published on Small Business Trends

69 Percent of SMBs Focus IT Budget on Emerging Tech

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 08:30

Sixty-nine percent of small and medium-sized businesses are devoting part of their IT budget for 2016 to newer and emerging technologies. These include technologies like 3D printers and wearable devices, as well as dashboard and data visualization software applications. The stat comes from a new survey-based whitepaper by technology company Insight Enterprises Inc. (NASDAQ: NSIT).

That figure raises to three in four tech influencers from large companies (74 percent) who are planning to invest in newer, more adaptable technology, and (75 percent) from medium-sized companies, says the Fortune 500 global tech provider of hardware, software, cloud and service solutions for small businesses.

In this whitepaper, small companies are defined as having less than 100 employees, medium companies have 100 to 999 employees, and large companies have 1,000 or more employees.

But Why are So Many Businesses Adding Emerging Tech to their IT Budget?

According to the report, a sizable number of business owners (65 percent) are apprehensive about emerging technology. They are concerned about disruption from technology innovation, such as new devices, applications and software solutions that are hitting the market at an incredible rate. Maybe you are one of those who are truly concerned about the impact new tech will have on your business landscape.

While tech innovations continue to emerge at unprecedented rates, reshaping the business landscape, innovative technology is also becoming increasingly accessible and affordable, says the Arizona-based Insight Enterprises. This accessibility creates more opportunity for growing businesses to revamp their infrastructure and consider how new technologies can be integrated in business via their IT budget.

“Disruption is on the horizon, and to deal with it companies are turning to intelligent technology as a smarter way to run their businesses. Today’s technology infrastructure and application deployment environments offer flexibility, scalability, and consumption options that simply were not around a few years ago. It’s an exciting time to harness this new model toward speed, agility and competitive positioning. This is why tech decision-makers are moving more aggressively to invest in the right combination of intelligent technology solutions,” said Steve Dodenhoff, President, U.S., Insight Enterprises, in a press release announcing the survey report.

Driving Business Growth through Technology and Innovation

The report corroborates another recent survey by Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and ZK Research suggesting that 86 percent of small businesses are considering the use of cloud-based unified communications (UC) systems as a possible solution to their communications needs. Other companies targeting small businesses have begun introducing smart technology, such as do-it-yourself website design service Wix, which recently introduced websites that design themselves using artificial intelligence (AI).

Tech innovation and adaptability seem to be the name of the game when it comes to business growth.

Findings from the Insight Enterprises’ Intelligent Technology survey show technology influencers at small businesses are less than satisfied with the current state of IT at their companies, which they feel is hampering their growth. Forty percent of these influencers say their IT budget will be invested in maintenance of existing equipment and infrastructure, followed by innovation, including the adoption and development of new technologies this year. And old technology won’t be the basis for building businesses of the future.

The Insight Enterprise survey was conducted online by independent research firm Market Intel Group between November 30, 2015 and December 8, 2015. It sampled over 400 IT professionals including tech leaders with decision-making responsibilities and close to 200 respondents from small businesses. The survey contains a variety of useful insights for IT professionals and company leaders who make decisions about IT infrastructure and business growth strategies.

“Small businesses, just like enterprise organizations, should think about technology not just as an operating expense or capital investment, but as a strategic enabler to drive scalability, competitiveness and growth,” Dodenhoff insists. “Maximizing technology investments is now within reach as technologies once only available to very large organizations are becoming more accessible to small and mid-market businesses alike.”

Business Tech Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "69 Percent of SMBs Focus IT Budget on Emerging Tech" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Open a Coffee Shop of Your Own

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 07:30

Thinking about starting your own coffee shop? You’re not alone. Coffee shops are already incredibly popular. A variety of coffee franchises to challenge industry leader Starbucks are already available, but there’s no need to spend a huge amount of money on a franchise. You can launch your own independent coffee shop or cafe as well. Just take a look at the list of essential tips below.

10 Steps to Open a Coffee Shop Secure the Right Equipment

Start by considering the kinds of products you want to offer for sale. The type of coffee you sell will determine the equipment that you need to have on hand. That list can include a cappuccino machine, drip coffee machines, press pots or French presses. Depending on your space and resources, you might even secure a variety of different items so that you can offer a larger variety of coffee beverages for sale when you open a coffee shop.

Choose a Space

Then you’ll need to find the right space to open a coffee shop. This can range from a full brick and mortar location to a small cart or truck. The smaller the space you have to work with, the less variety of beverages and food items you can realistically offer to customers. But if you have a full shop space, you can offer a full menu of different selections.

Find the Right Location

The location of your space can also play a major part in the success of your coffee shop. If you’re opting for a brick and mortar space, choosing one that’s in a downtown area or along a major thoroughfare can really increase your foot traffic. If you’re going with a cart or truck, you might choose to set up at local fairs or farmer’s markets. Or you could even set up a coffee space within a college, hospital, shopping center or office building.

Adhere to All Local Regulations

Different states and local governments have different regulations when it comes to zoning and local health department mandates. You’ll need to check in with your state and local governments to find what they require of coffee shops in the area where you want to open a coffee shop.

Research the Competition

You’ll also need to take a look at the other businesses that sell coffee in the area. Don’t just look at actual coffee shops, but also consider diners, carts and any other business that might compete with you. Then look at the prices and offerings to see if it’s an environment where you’ll be able to compete. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your products need to be cheaper than everyone else’s, but if your products are much more expensive you should at least offer something that customers can’t get on every other corner when you open a coffee shop.

Hire Some Staff

Depending on the size and offerings of your business, you may need to hire some staff to help you serve customers and run the day-to-day operations. The amount of staff you’ll need will depend on your budget, the area where you want to set up, the amount of products you plan to serve and your hours. If you’re running a small cart with just regular old coffee, you may be able to do it yourself. But if you’re starting a shop with a full line of coffee products and other food items in a high traffic area, you’ll likely need a larger team.

Source Specialty Items

You may be able to get away with selling regular old wholesale coffee to some customers. But more and more people are becoming aware of the differences in quality among coffee suppliers. That means they’re getting picky about where their coffee comes from. So it can be beneficial to find a specialty blend or reputable roaster that more sophisticated coffee buyers will appreciate. You can even create your own signature blends to help your products really stand out from the competition.

Think About Food Items

It’s not a necessity, but a lot of coffee shops find it beneficial to sell some sweets or other food items to go along with the coffee. If that’s a part of your business plan, you’ll need to also consider the equipment that you’ll need to make those food items. You also may need to adhere to some additional regulations in order to serve food to customers safely.

Furnish Your Space

If you have the space, you can also set up some places for your customers to sit and relax in your coffee shop. Invest in some couches, chairs and tables to make it a comfortable environment for people. And maybe even offer free WiFi to attract connected customers.

Market Your New Business

Once you have all the essentials in place, it’s time to market your new coffee shop. Even if you’ve set up shop in a high traffic area, your business could benefit from some additional marketing activities. At the very least, you can set up a website and social media presence to make it easy for online customers to find and communicate with your business. You might also consider local ads or sponsoring local events.

Coffee Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Open a Coffee Shop of Your Own" was first published on Small Business Trends

Why are Business Accelerators Increasing in Number?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 06:30

AngelList, an online platform that matches high potential startups with investors and employees currently indicates that 578 accelerators are in operation, up from one in 2005. Why the enormous increase in the number of accelerators in the United States over the past decade?

What’s Behind the Growing Number of Business Accelerators in the U.S.?

Accelerators — organizations that provide early stage companies with mentoring, capital and access to investors in return for an equity investment — are an organizational innovation. They provide a better way to manage the financing of high potential early stage businesses than previous alternatives.

This innovation solves several problems with the process of investing in early stage companies. First, business accelerators facilitate investor diversification. Many investors want to put smaller amounts of money in a large number of companies. However, many investors do not have the means to identify and evaluate potential investments in a large number of small start-ups. By investing in accelerator funds, which, in turn, own shares in the startup companies themselves, early stage investors can invest in a wide variety of early stage companies at relatively low cost.

Accelerators also make it possible to structure investments in startup companies as real options. Real options provide the right, but not the obligation, to make future investments. Because no one knows ahead of time which start-up companies will succeed and which will fail, investors would like to make small investments in many companies to see how they develop. For those whose future seems most promising, the investors would like to have the right, but not the obligation, to make additional investments. Accelerators provide that opportunity to early stage investors.

Accelerators make it easier and cheaper for investors to identify businesses in a wide variety of locations. Because business accelerators accept applications from companies from anywhere who then relocate to the accelerator for a few months, accelerators provide their limited partners with the opportunity to find promising companies in places where they do not have a network of contacts.

These organizations also make it easier for investors to learn about companies. Accelerators provide the opportunity for early stage investors to meet with and talk to the founders of the early stage companies that join their organizations. They also allow their investors to serve as mentors to the accelerator’s portfolio companies. By serving as startup company mentors, investors can gather hard-to-get, fine-grained, information about which startup businesses have the greatest potential and so are worthy of further investment.

Accelerators help young companies develop faster. Accelerator directors are experts at working through the problems that companies face in their early stages. Entrepreneurs are co-located with the accelerator directors. Together these two attributes mean that companies in accelerators can get more and better assistance overcoming the problems that early stage companies face than companies outside of accelerators are able to obtain.

The accelerator structure breeds both collaboration and friendly competition among start-up companies. Both of these forces accelerate the development of young companies, which benefits the investors who have put money into those businesses.

In short, accelerators are an organizational innovation that improves the start-up financing process. As a result, they are likely to be a lasting addition to the world of early stage venture finance, much like the development of venture capital funds were several decades ago.

Motorcycle Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Why are Business Accelerators Increasing in Number?" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Enjoy Summer in Your Office or Store

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2016-06-20 05:00

Summer is already here and it is three months long. Unfortunately, most of us cannot go to vacation for three months but even if we are in the office, we can still enjoy the long summer days and bring summer into the office. Below you can find how:

Enjoy Summer at Work Too! Change Your Commute Routine

Instead of taking the metro or bus, why not cycle or even walk to the office? In this way, you can enjoy the nice weather outside and feel the sun.

Plan an Office BBQ Day

Everybody loves BBQ, especially during summer. Therefore, plan an outdoor BBQ for your office or team. This will also help people get together and socialize.

Work Outside

Take your laptop and go work in the garden of your office. If you can work remotely, you can also go work at a park or even at a beach.

Get Hydrated

Don’t forget to stay hydrated during long summer days. Have a bottle of water at your desk all the time. Also, instead of drinking coffee or soda, try drinking a cool glass of lemonade to feel that you are in summer.

Decorate Your Desk with Summer Photos

You can place photos from your previous summer vacations on your desk to remember those fun days. This will also give you motivation to plan your trip for this summer.

Start Earlier, Leave Earlier

Days are longer during summer. Sun rises earlier and sets later. For this reason, get to the office a little early and finish off early to enjoy the rest of your afternoon and maybe you can socialize with your friends or loved ones during the rest of the day.

Ice Cream Break

Ice cream is not only for kids and it makes everyone happy. Thus, why not give yourself an ice cream break in the afternoon? You can walk to the nearest ice cream shop from your office and take a little break.

Have Some Flowers in the Office

Flowers clean the air. Also, they look and smell nice. In addition, they give you joy when you look at them. Therefore, put some fresh flowers around the office or on to your desk to brighten up your day.

Listen to the Summer Songs

Turn on your radio and listen to the summer tunes. Some Caribbean or Hawaiian music can make you feel that you are already in vacation. If you find music distracting while working, you can listen to it when you are driving.

Ice Cream Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Enjoy Summer in Your Office or Store" was first published on Small Business Trends

Five Reasons Why Franchising Without a Franchise Consultant is Reckless

Franchise-Chat - Fri, 2015-03-27 22:00
Callum Floyd, Director of Franchize Consultants in New Zealand, explains five important reasons why a franchise development consultant is pivotal when franchising a business.
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