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Is Paid Vacation Really What Your Employees Want Most?

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2014-11-04 20:30

Paid vacation time continues to be the most widely offered benefit by small employers, hotly followed by personal time off and health insurance. But are these the benefits that employees truly favor?

Employee needs are changing — baby boomers are no longer dominant in the workplace, the recession has placed new impetus on financial security, and traditional benefit packages aren’t necessarily cutting it anymore. That’s the takeaway from a 2012 survey (PDF) of small business employees by MetLife titled, “Are You Listening? What Small Business Employees Want From Their Benefits, and How Employers Can Show They’ve Heard.”

So how can you ensure you’re on the same page as your employees and are offering benefits that reflect their wants and needs?

Tune In to the Generational Needs of Employees

Although younger employees now outnumber boomers in the small business workplace, it’s important to listen to the needs of all generations so that you can deliver a benefits package that is both relevant and provides value to all generations. Conventional employee benefits tend to reflect the needs of the boomer generation, yet a younger generation represents your employees of the future. According to the MetLife survey, only about a third of small business owners strongly agree that they strive to understand and meet different generational benefits needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, senior employees are increasingly delaying retirement. Sure, you get to hold onto that valuable talent a little longer, but this group will increasingly demand more robust healthcare plans and disability or critical illness insurance.

Talk to your staff to see what matters most to them, and don’t forget to make compensation for age, sex and other factors.

Don’t Overestimate Employee Loyalty

Assuming that your employees are happy and loyal to your small business is a huge mistake and puts your business at risk for one of its most expensive challenges ­– turnover.

MetLife reports that over a third of the small business workforce surveyed plan on moving to new pastures fairly soon, a percentage that rises to 42 percent for younger workers.

A strong and well-attuned benefits package can have a massive impact on worker loyalty — especially among younger employees.

Don’t Ignore the Impacts of Recession

The effects of recession can have a big influence on how an employee weighs their benefit priorities.

Whether they’ve experienced job losses, stagnant compensation, or just worked harder during the height of the recession — these experiences shape how they feel about their employers and their benefit packages. Likewise, as a result of economic conditions, employees are counting on benefits more than ever — and they’re willing to pay for them. According to the MetLife survey, younger employees (a group that has been hit hard by unemployment and under-employment) are willing to bear more of the cost of benefits rather than lose them entirely.

Build a Portfolio of Voluntary Benefits

While it’s unrealistic to expect small employers to compete with a Fortune 500 benefits package, there are a number of things that you can do to marry your workforce’s need for generational-specific benefits, financial security and the flexibility to customize and contribute to their own benefits plan.

A great way to do this is to offer voluntary benefits. These desirable programs are a great way to differentiate your business and give employees the option to build a package that meets their needs –- at no cost to you.

Voluntary benefits include options for life insurance, retirement, dental coverage, and short-term disability. But they can also get creative and include options for pet and home-owners insurance or legal services such as will writing or identity theft resolution.

Voluntary benefits work by giving employees the option to buy into these products through their employers at a lower rate than they could get on their own. They are also available at no cost to the employer. The employer simply acts as a channel between the employee and the insurance carrier or legal service provider.

Voluntary benefits are a great way of allowing employees to customize their plan to suit their circumstances and age-specific needs. Be sure to market them properly so that employees understand and appreciate what they’re getting. For example, bring in benefits counselors from insurance carriers, host lunch and learns, and make information available to employees online.

Get Affordable Healthcare Insurance through the SHOP Marketplace

If you’re a small business with fewer than 50 employees and want to offer health insurance as part of your benefits plan, take a look at the SHOP Marketplace. Brought about by the Affordable Care Act, SHOP offers you options for controlling the coverage you offer and how much you pay toward employee premiums. If you have fewer than 25 employees, you’ll also qualify for a tax credit when you buy insurance through SHOP. Learn more on Healthcare.gov.

Talk to Your Employees About Government-Backed Retirement Plans

We all want to build a nest egg, and later this year the Department of the Treasury is making it a lot easier for middle- and low-income individuals who don’t have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans to start investing. With the launch of government-backed retirement accounts – called MyRA – employers will be able to offer employees the equivalent of a Roth IRA which allows savers to invest after-tax dollars and withdraw the money tax-free after retirement. However, unlike traditional Roth IRAs, the accounts are invested only in government savings bonds. They are also backed by the U.S. government, so your employees will never lose their principal investment.

Employers aren’t required to contribute or administer the plan and employees can contribute as little as $5 at a time through payroll deductions.

If you’re interested in offering your employees the opportunity to save for retirement, but don’t want the cost or hassle of administering a plan, take advantage of the numerous resources on the MyRA website to help promote the program to your employees.

Get Help Fine Tuning Your Benefits Program

Aside from voluntary benefits, there are many non-traditional benefit packages that small businesses can offer at a relatively low cost. From supplementing tuition costs to employee discounts — talk to your employees about their needs. Then spend time with a benefits or insurance broker to find the right packages for your workforce and budget. Make a pledge to promote and keep the lines of communication with your employees and prospects open. Benefits are a big deal. Treat them that way.

And, don’t forget…

Whatever benefits you put in place, remember that employee loyalty doesn’t entirely hinge on vacation days or a low healthcare insurance deductible. The number one reason for employee loyalty continues to center on manager-employee relationships – so be sure to invest in those too.

Beach Laptop Photo via Shutterstock

The post Is Paid Vacation Really What Your Employees Want Most? appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Higher Logic's Andy Steggles Named TRENDS Partner of the Year for...

PR Web - Tue, 2014-11-04 20:13

President and Chief Customer Officer Andy Steggles touts customer-first culture and strong association ties for Higher Logic's success and the Association TRENDS award.

(PRWeb October 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/HigherLogic/StegglesTRENDSPartner/prweb12279288.htm

HealthyYOU Vending machines placed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah...

PR Web - Tue, 2014-11-04 20:13

HealthyYOU Vending machines are placed at Hill Air Force Base in Utah to support the military's Operation Live Well program. This Department of Defense program emphasizes quality of life issues...

(PRWeb October 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12280637.htm

With Flash and Cash, a Designer Targets U.S.

WSJ Franchising - Tue, 2014-11-04 19:45
German fashion designer Philipp Plein, known for rock ‘n’ roll styles and splashy runway shows, is looking to expand, with new stores in the U.S.

Signpost, Wix and OnDeck Team Up With Advice For Main Street Small Businesses

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2014-11-04 18:30

Signpost, Wix and OnDeck all serve large numbers of small businesses. And they recently joined together to release a free Small Business Toolkit.  The Toolkit is an ebook with advice and  resources for website creation, marketing and financing. The ebook can be downloaded at www.smbtoolkit2014.com.

The three companies got together due to their complementary missions to serve small businesses.  The Toolkit focuses on those three complementary areas:

  • Creating a Web presence and getting online – Wix offers a free and easy-to-use website creation tool.
  • Standardizing and expanding that presence across the Web  -- This is where Signpost comes in, with marketing tools to help small businesses standardize and extend their local listings and get found on mobile apps, and then ties contact information into a CRM system so you can you better manage customer interactions.
  • Getting capital for operations and growth – Enter OnDeck, which provides short-term capital solutions for small businesses.

Signpost CEO Stuart Wall explained that the companies share a similar vision, noting “We hope that by aggregating our advice in a helpful format, more would-be entrepreneurs and current small business owners will embrace the web to start a venture or increase the health and longevity of their current business.”

Signpost and OnDeck executives knew of one another through one of their investors, Google Ventures. Google Ventures has investments in both OnDeck and Signpost.

And the Wix connection came about through networking.  Says Ryan Sommer, a spokesman for Signpost, “We connected with Wix by attending events at the Wix Lounge,” a co-working and events space run by Wix where entrepreneurs and small business owners congregate.  “We recognized that we were on a similar mission for small businesses. We’re excited to work with both companies, and we expect to grow the relationship. The goal is to evolve the Toolkit by adding more content over time.”

Signpost serves mainly service businesses, such as chiropractors, and many have 1 to 5 employees that typically do not have a large team they can mobilize for marketing.  The company is headquartered in New York, and also has offices in Austin and Denver.

OnDeck is one of the new breed of online lending platforms that is transforming how small businesses apply for and obtain working capital, growth capital and business loans.  It has deployed over $1.5 billion n capital since being founded in 2007, to tens of thousands of businesses.

The three companies held a launch of the Toolkit and reception in New York on October 21, 2014, attended by senior executives of all 3 companies at Signpost’s headquarters. The event, timed with the start of New York’s 9th annual Small Business Summit, included remarks from the participating companies and Gregg Bishop, Deputy Commissioner of Business Development at New York City’s Department of Small Business Services.

“Entrepreneurs and small businesses are looking for reliable, accessible and easy to use solutions to raise capital, get online and market their businesses,” said Eric Mason, director of marketing communications, US at Wix.com. Mason added in remarks that the collaboration on the Toolkit “is a natural fit for all three companies and important to our mission to serve small businesses.”

Andrea Gellert (pictured above), senior vice president of marketing for OnDeck spoke at the event and concurred that ” helping small businesses grow through innovative technology” is a mission important to all three companies.

Download the Toolkit here.

Editor’s note: corrected investor reference. 

The post Signpost, Wix and OnDeck Team Up With Advice For Main Street Small Businesses appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Red Lobster reverts to lobster roots in rebrand

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2014-11-04 18:04
Chain reemphasizes seafood roots with first big move under new owners

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Fiesta Restaurant Group 3Q net income surges 81.6%

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2014-11-04 17:36
Traffic rises at both Pollo Tropical, Taco Cabana brands Traffic rises at both Pollo Tropical, Taco Cabana brands

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Rock & Brews names Mike Reynolds first CEO

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2014-11-04 17:04
Former Robeks exec to lead growing concept from former KISS band members Former Robeks exec to lead growing concept from former KISS band members

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Here's How Much It Costs To Open A Fast Food Franchise

Topix - Tue, 2014-11-04 16:36

You must have at least $750,000 in liquid assets to open a McDonald's or Taco Bell restaurant, for example. To open a KFC, your net worth must be at least $1.5 million.

Categories: Today's Food News

Goodbye Nokia Phones, Hello Microsoft Lumia

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2014-11-04 16:30

We’ve seen the last of the Nokia Lumia line of smartphones, at least in terms of the brand name, it seems. The phones will still be available but under a new name.

So it’s goodbye Nokia phones, hello Microsoft Lumia.

Microsoft announced the brand name change recently for future Nokia mobile devices.

The name change follows Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services division announced in late 2013. The deal means Microsoft is taking over the manufacture and marketing of Nokia’s smartphones and tablets.

Microsoft is planning to slowly phase-in the transition to the new brand name replacing Nokia with Microsoft Lumia for most of the devices.

Writing about the changeover, Tiina Jaatinen, editor-in-chief of Nokia’s official Conversations blog explains:

“When we announced that the Nokia Devices & Services business would become part of Microsoft, we also shared that Lumia, our smartphone brand, would become part of the Microsoft family. Since then, we have naturally been making the change from Nokia to Microsoft in our websites, packaging and other consumer touch points.

In the coming weeks and months, you’ll start seeing even more brand experience come to life across different channels as we transition from Nokia Lumia to Microsoft Lumia.”

The company has already made changes in the branding on some of its apps and is in the process of changing the branding global and local company websites, the official blog reports.

And changes in the branding of the company’s social channels is expected.

So when can we expect to see a Windows Lumia phone on the market?

Windows Central quotes one company representative saying it will be “soon.” In fact, there are even reports that the Nokia Lumia 830 set to debut on Nov. 7 could still be re-branded as Microsoft Lumia 830 by that release date.

The Nokia brand will continue to exist beyond the name change of its phone and other mobile devices. Microsoft purchased only the Finnish company’s phone and mobile business. But Nokia will continue operating the part of its business focusing on mapping and network infrastructure independent of Microsoft.

Nokia debuted the Lumia line of smartphones back in 2011. And the company has aggressively continued to introduce new Lumia smartphones since the acquisition by Microsoft.

Lumia smartphones range from low-end, budget-friendly versions to higher-end devices sporting impressive cameras and internal specs.

Four Lumia phones have been introduced since the beginning of 2014. Each operates on Windows Phone 8.1. They include the Lumia 930 at the top and the introductory smartphone, the Lumia 530.

Besides the Nokia Lumia brand, Microsoft may be making another change in its mobile phone division. This one may involve changing the branding of its Windows Phone mobile operating system to just Windows, The Verge reports.

The name change may signal Microsoft’s intentions to market its mobile and desktop operating systems in a unified way in the future.

Image: Microsoft/Lumia

The post Goodbye Nokia Phones, Hello Microsoft Lumia appeared first on Small Business Trends.

Chicken Fries drive Burger King 3Q sales

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2014-11-04 16:06
Expenses double on the Tim Hortons merger Expenses double on the Tim Hortons merger

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National Bedding Retailer Retains DataSource

PR Web - Tue, 2014-11-04 15:43

DataSource will provide branded solutions for merchandise, new hire kits, monthly employee recognition awards, monthly training collateral kitting and fulfillment and more.

(PRWeb October 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12281047.htm

Red Robin 3Q net income jumps 53%

Nation's Restaurant News - Tue, 2014-11-04 15:36
Operator regains momentum with return to value message Operator regains momentum with return to value message

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Wendy's: Are Earnings 'Better Than Fast Food'?

Topix - Tue, 2014-11-04 15:31

Fast food has taken a couple of hits in recent weeks as fast food giants have slid slightly on less than fantastic earnings reports. With Thursday coming up, Wendy's is preparing its own earnings reports.

Categories: Today's Food News

Malls get second life as data centers

Store Front Talk Back - Tue, 2014-11-04 14:54

Online shopping may be forcing the closure of physical retail stores and laying waste to U.S. malls, but some are experiencing new life as data centers. Malls from Indiana to Mississippi and Baltimore are now housing servers, routers and ethernet cables to support a new kind of retail infrastructure.

read more

ServiceMaster of North Texas in Dallas, TX Boosts their Internet...

PR Web - Tue, 2014-11-04 14:43

ServiceMaster of North Texas increases the reach of their internet marketing campaign by joining the lead generating website RestorationMasterFinder.com.

(PRWeb October 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/servicemaster-dallas-tx/restorationmaster/prweb12285016.htm

Target introduces 3D printing for holiday items

Store Front Talk Back - Tue, 2014-11-04 14:22

Those watching the 3D printing category can now look beyond office supply retailers. Target is now offering 3D printing for small decorative and gift items for the holidays.

read more

NRA: What's on the Line for Restaurants in 2014's Election

QSR Magazine - Tue, 2014-11-04 14:20
Exclusive Brief: 0

Taxes, immigration, wages, and other issues that affect restaurant operations have been at the center of political campaigns across the country. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) summarizes what’s on the line for restaurant operators in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

The direction of pro-restaurant policy: Who gets elected Tuesday will be a major factor in determining what happens next on some critical for restaurateurs, including immigration reform, changes to the Affordable Care Act, tax reform, and minimum wage issues.

Microsites: Legal

17 Ways to Boost Online Sales This Season

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2014-11-04 14:00

For businesses, fall is one of the most important seasons of the year in terms of sales and profits. Shop.org predicts online sales in November and December of this year could grow between 8 and 11 percent over the last holiday season to as much as $105 billion. If you’re looking for ways to boost online sales before the end of the year, try one or more of these 17 ideas:

Hold an Online Customer Appreciation Event

Genuine gratitude can go a long way. Customers like feeling appreciated, which is beneficial to you too if they continue to make purchases on your site. Offer return customers an exclusive discount on your products or offer everyone an exclusive discount that only lasts for a specific period of time.

Give Away Turkeys

This is a common tactic at car dealerships around Thanksgiving, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t work for an online site as well. Work with a turkey company to get exclusive coupons or offer to give a discount off the amount of a turkey when users show proof of purchase. It’s a fun way to give a discount while tying it to the current holiday.

Hold a Costume Challenge Contest

Have a product that could be turned into a costume? Hold a costume contest that requires participants to only utilize your products. Offer prizes or gift cards to the winners. You’ll not only raise awareness about how your products can be used in a fun way, you’ll get some great user-generated content that you can share on your blog and social media.

Donate Portion of your Proceeds to a Non-profit Organization

If you have a non-profit cause that is dear to your company’s heart, pledge to donate all or a portion of one day’s sales to an organization that is championing that cause. Look on Charity Navigator, which rates the authenticity and honesty of non-profit organizations, to find one that fits. It can either be one in your local community or that helps people around the world. Customers are more likely to buy if they know a portion of the money is going toward a good cause. Add to that the fact that philanthropy is more important to young adults these days, according to trend data. In 2011, 75% of young adults aged 20 to 35 gave to a non-profit cause.

Introduce New Products

Just before the winter holidays is a great time to introduce new products. You have time to fix any customer service issues before your site gets busier and it can help you develop testimonials, and experiment with prices and discounts.

Offer Interest-Free Holiday Shopping

Many people don’t save monthly for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts, and as a result, end up stressed out about their finances come the New Year. According to the American Research Group, Americans planned on spending an average of $801 on Christmas in 2013. Ease the stress of holiday shopping by offering layaway or no interest credit offers to help customers get the gifts they want without the headache of paying interest around the holidays.

Add Social Sharing Options on Product Pages

This is a simple change, and absolutely required if you haven’t done it already. Make sure you give customers the ability to share your products on social media (especially Pinterest, which has a higher checkout value per pin over Twitter and Facebook: $140 to $180). Here’s an example on the Macy’s website:

Offer an Exclusive Discount for Social Media Users

If you have an active and engaged social media following, try offering them exclusive discounts. It not only helps drive traffic and engagement on your social media profiles. It also gives your audience on that platform a feeling of exclusivity. In addition, custom promo codes for specific social media sites can help you track which platform has the highest ROI.

Offer Free Shipping for a Minimum Order

Customers love free shipping and are more likely to spend more if they can get it. One great example of this is Amazon Prime, which is a free shipping program from Amazon. The Motley Fool reports that Amazon Prime members spend twice as much on Amazon as non-members, most likely because they want to get their money’s worth.

Create Holiday Gift Guides for Specific Customer Segments

If your ecommerce site offers a wide range of products, consider creating purchasing guides for specific kinds of customers. This means creating collections of products that apply to a specific group of customers. For instance, grandparents would probably want something different than a teenage boy or girl would. Creating gift guides can also help make your customers’ shopping  experiences easier. That’s because the gift guides can give customers great gift ideas and direct them to the exact product page to make a purchase.

Offer Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals

Business Insider reports that the average online order for Black Friday 2013 was $135.27. Furthermore, Cyber Monday online sales hit $2.29 billion last year, according to Digiday and Adobe. These two great shopping days are great opportunities for retailers to offer amazing deals, especially since consumers are already geared up to buy.

Ask Customers What They Want

Utilize social media, a free polling tool like SurveyMonkey, and email to ask customers what they are looking for in fall and winter. This can help you figure out your strategy and what products to release and discount.

Utilize Popular eCommerce Platforms like Amazon and eBay

If you are only currently selling your products on your own site, consider also selling on a larger platform, like Amazon or eBay. Many top companies have an online store presence at each, mostly because it gives them additional product visibility. While both of these sites do charge a fee for each sale, the increased profits coming from better visibility may be worth it.

Give Away Random Discounts Through Email

Overstock uses this strategy to get people to click through to their site. They let users know that they are getting a discount in a specified range, but they won’t find out how much it is until they click through to the website.


Email example provided by patroneer

Start a Social Media Advertising Campaign

Have you tried Facebook or Twitter advertising? This might be the time. It’s easy to customize your audience and some retailers are making hundreds of sales per day from Facebook ads alone.

Install a Related Products Module on Product Pages

If you don’t have it set up already, consider adding a Related Products module on your individual product pages. By utilizing purchase data, you can suggest additional products customers may be interested in based on the product they are currently looking at.

Create Seasonal Packs of Products

Consider bundling several products together to create a themed package. The strategy should generate greater revenue since you will be able to charge more for the packages than for individual merchandise. And creating seasonal packages will add to the urgency since the package will no longer be available once the season is over.

Fall Sale Photo via Shutterstock

The post 17 Ways to Boost Online Sales This Season appeared first on Small Business Trends.

GM to roll out Android cars in 2016, supplier says

AutoNews - Tue, 2014-11-04 13:45
General Motors is preparing to introduce Android-based infotainment systems -- the same Google platform used on more than 1 billion mobile devices, from smartphones and tablet computers to computerized wristwatches -- starting in late 2016,...
Categories: Latest News