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Five Easy Tips to Improve Your Email Open Rates

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 17:30

Over the years, email marketing has allowed businesses to expand their reach at a fraction of the cost of other various marketing strategies used by different brands today. Its ability to target specific audiences and make the most of customer interest generated from different sources is one of the primary reasons why it has been known to improve conversion rates for many brands and businesses.

Many brands and business however, often underestimate how powerful email marketing can be when used strategically in bringing in more traffic and ultimately leading to more conversion. But sending just any regular email to your customer mailing list will just not cut it.

Companies need to be able to track how effective their email marketing strategy is by taking note of their email open rate so as to stay more relevant to their subscribers.

How to Improve Your Email Open Rates

Here are five tricks to improve your email open rates.

Create a Killer Subject Line

No form of email marketing will ever be effective if people do not even read them so email subject lines play a vital part in the success of your marketing strategy.

To make sure your emails stand out from the thousands of emails that your audience will likely get every single day, it is important to draft creative subject lines for your emails. These should be catchy and able to draw curiosity so that your audience is drawn to open your email rather than skip it.

A great subject line is one that hooks your audience at first glance but remains clear and concise. Nothing turns your audience off quicker than a catchy subject line that does not match your message once it is opened and read.

Your subject line should also be free from spelling and grammar mistakes so as not to impact your brand’s credibility. But most importantly, it has to be able to offer value to your potential customers as well so as to make the time they spend reading through your message meaningful in some way.

Write Valuable Content

Writing quality content for every single email ensures your audience will enjoy your emails when they come too. As a result, it may also help ensure your subsequent emails will be opened and read in the future.

You content must offer value to your subscribers, give them insight into new things, add inspiration and promote learning. Every email is important. When one subscriber appreciates one email from your brand, they are more likely to keep reading other emails when they come.

Remember, your customers can just as easily unsubscribe from your mailing list if they feel your content is the same spammy stuff they keep getting from other dubious sources. The goal is to consistently write high quality and engaging content which leads to more loyal subscribers who can increase your email open rates.

Segment Your Mailing List

With so many emails coming in to people’s inboxes every day, many recipients on your mailing list are sure to be selective about the emails they open. No one has the time to go through every single email in their inbox.

To increase the chances of having your emails read by your subscribers, it is essential to segment your mailing list. This means dividing your audience into specific groups based on common interests and other similarities.

This makes it easier for you to create a message that is relevant to a specific group — which increases your chances of success over sending a singular message to all your subscribers.

With segments, it is easier for you to market to a particular audience based on shared characteristics, improving conversion in the long run.

To start segmenting your mailing list, it is important to identify the top three to four profiles in your audience based on who they are, what they do, how they want to be contacted and what they are interested in. Doing this allows you to tailor your message to each of these profiles.

Avoid Spam Filters

With so many emails coming through people’s inboxes every minute, spam filters have emerged to help people sort through messages that they actually need versus those that just need to be ignored.

You don’t want your emails to be flagged as spam so your email needs to be able to avoid spam filters. To do so, avoid such things as misleading subject headings and sales terms on your email. You’ll also want to choose a good IP address and always send from a trusted domain.

It is also important to ensure your subscribers have opted to receive your emails to avoid ending up in the Spam folder.

Optimize Your Messages for Mobile Devices

Nowadays, many users check their email on the go and are more likely to check their email using their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. This only proves how important it is to optimize your email content for accessibility and readability on mobile devices.

To accomplish this, only use mobile-friendly formatting for your email content while keeping in mind that smartphones have smaller screens so subject lines may be aggregated. It is important to keep your message short, simple and concise.  Avoid using large fonts, use smaller images and highlight call to action buttons on your emails to make it easier for your audience to tap on them which targets conversion.

These are only some of the ways to ensure you make the most of your email marketing campaign and get all your messages read by your subscribers. More than anything, the key to a better email open rate lies in knowing your audience better, understanding their needs and what captures their interest while ensuring your content remains highly valuable and relevant to them.

With an effective email marketing campaign, brands and businesses can gain better visibility and conversion without needing too many resources or investment.

By taking into account these tips and tricks, it may be possible for your brand to bring in all the customers it needs through something as simple as an effective email marketing campaign.

Open Email Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Five Easy Tips to Improve Your Email Open Rates" was first published on Small Business Trends

Ooops! Could General Mills Bee Conservation Efforts Actually Harm the Environment? (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 15:30

Even the most well intentioned initiatives can have negative consequences if you don’t do enough research before launching. Just ask General Mills.

The company, famous for cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios, which has a bee as its mascot, recently launched a “Bring Back the Bees” campaign. General Mills gave out 1.5 million wildflower seeds to customers in the hopes the seeds would get planted across the U.S. and help the declining bee population.

But some critics have argued that this initiative could actually do more harm than good. Since General Mills gave out the same seeds to customers across the country, it’s possible that the wildflowers could become invasive species in certain areas. And that could potentially hurt local ecosystems.

For its part, General Mills said that it chose the flowers because of how attractive their nectar is to bees. And it also said that the particular variety of wildflower it chose is not an invasive species.

Conservation and environmentalism are hot topics right now. And businesses that try to give back could potentially do a lot of good. But today’s consumers aren’t just going to take your word for it.

A Cautionary CSR Example

Individuals and groups are likely to do research and understand exactly the type of impact your program might have — positive or negative. So, businesses should heed the lesson in this cautionary CSR example: do your own research to make sure that all aspects of an initiative like this are going to lead to a positive outcome.

Bee Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Ooops! Could General Mills Bee Conservation Efforts Actually Harm the Environment? (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Business Users Beware, AT&T GoPhone Unlimited Data Offer Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 13:30

A new unlimited data plan from AT&T (NYSE:T) recently announced for the carrier’s GoPhone customers may have small business owners excited. But the new option comes with some serious constraints.

Details Behind the GoPhone Unlimited Data Offer

The unlimited data plan costs $60 per month. However, AT&T caps subscribers’ speeds at 3Mbps and a maximum of 1.5Mbps for 480p video streaming. This basically means that you won’t be able to stream HD video.

Moreover, you should expect slower speeds once you exceed 22GB of data for the month. “AT&T will temporarily slow data on a line during a plan cycle after 22GB of usage during periods of network congestion,” the company says in announcing the service.

The “unlimited plan” also comes with unlimited texting and call time, but there is no mention of tethering inclusion.

The upside of this plan, however, is that if you are traveling to Canada or Mexico, you can use you data to send texts and make calls in and between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. without worrying about additional charges.

Is the GoPhone Unlimited Data Plan Right For Your Small Business?

The unlimited data plan is ideal if you are looking to “surf the web, keeping up with your friends on social and stream standard definition (about 480p) video.” But it is not exactly a good deal for businesses that use more than 22GB of data every month. The plan’s limitations are just going to slow down your business.

AT&T, however, adds that customers who don’t need unlimited data should try out their 6GB AT&T GoPhone plan that goes for $40 a month after AutoPay. You also get unlimited talk, text and data usage. But similar to the unlimited plan, speeds are reduced to an unusable 128Kbps once you exhaust the 6GB data.

You can learn more about AT&T GoPhone’s monthly rate plans at

Image: ATT Wireless

This article, "Business Users Beware, AT&T GoPhone Unlimited Data Offer Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be" was first published on Small Business Trends

What is Yext and Can It Help Your Small Business?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 12:00

It you’re looking for a way to automatically sync your business information across 50+ directories such as Google Maps, Yelp and Apple Siri, Yext presents itself as a possible solution.

Last week, the New-York based company filed paperwork with the US securities regulators to raise as much as $100 million in an initial public offering.

What is Yext?

Yext is a data management tool that is designed to keep track of your business’ location-related information on multiple directories. The software allows you to sync your:

  • Business Name, Address and Phone Number;
  • Business hours, products and services, holiday hours, photos and videos, staff bios, menus, and calendars;
  • In-store coupons and other mobile wallet content;
  • Address, phone number and content in any language;
  • Business categories;
  • Location labels, and advanced search and filtering.
How Does Yext Work?

The tool automatically audits business directory listings, updating and replacing inaccurate information as needed. The software also identifies listing opportunities that can enable you to fill a void where no information previously existed.

How Important is Yext to Your Small Business?

The data management software instantly places and then updates your business information in more than 50 directories. The reasons why this is important for your business are twofold.  First, many businesses lose potential customers by having the wrong information showing on Google or whatever other directory a customer happens to be searching. However, Yext eliminates that problem by syncing and updating your information across all major directories.

Secondly, achieving a high Google page rank relies on a number of things, including how your business contact information is displayed on various third-party directories. These listings are usually referred to as business citations or NAP (for name, address and phone number.) While keeping your business information consistent and accurate across all directories can be overwhelming, it is necessary if you are intent on achieving good ranks. This is where Yext saves the day.

Other Yext benefits include:

  • One central dashboard to make name, address, phone or other local business changes;
  • Review monitoring;
  • Enhanced Listings that include photos, specials, etc.;
  • Local listing analytics. 
 Yext Pricing

Yext has four pricing plans for small businesses. The Emerging starter package costs $199 per year, the Essential package is $449 per year, the Complete package is $499 per year while the Premium package costs $999 per year.

While Yext offers a unique service that many businesses need, you need to know that your listings will go back to the pre-Yext stage if you decide to opt out of the service. This may make you feel like you are being held hostage by the service should you decide it’s too pricey.

Does Your Business Need Yext?

Yext is a great tool if you are always changing your business location or if you are rapidly expanding and available in multiple locations. Manual citation building can be time-consuming and complicated and there is no guarantee that all your business information will be cleaned and synced across all directories. So, for a quick and robust management of your local listing, Yext is a good bet.

Image: Yext

This article, "What is Yext and Can It Help Your Small Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends

3 Social Media Tactics You Should Never Overlook

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 10:45

Social media is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating developments of our time. In addition to giving everyone a voice that can be heard, it gives brands the ability to gather widespread interest across the globe while adding a human touch to their messaging.

Given the vast number of users on social media, if used correctly, it can be a gold mine for businesses to reach new and existing customers. Therefore, establishing a presence on the top platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram) needs to be top priority in marketing efforts.

The goal of using social media for business purposes is essentially to give your brand a voice with which followers can relate on a personal level. While this might sound like a relatively simple task at first, it can actually be quite difficult to execute.

Social Media Tactics

With this in mind, there are three vital social media tactics that cannot be overlooked. Let’s talk about them.

1. Identifying Trends

A great social media campaign does not start with a posting spree. It starts with listening. If you want to create and distribute content that effectively drives traffic to your website, you need to be in-tune with the topics your target audience is currently talking about.

A big mistake that a lot of brands make is answering these questions and crafting their messaging to fit their own needs, as opposed to the consumers’. This is where tools like BuzzsumoSprout Social or Feedly come in handy. They enable you to learn about the content that is buzzing within your industry, around your brand or about your competitors.

Let’s say your company specializes in men’s fashion. You’ll want to start the observation process through a large scope with a short time window. The first metrics to look at are in relation to the big picture of the industry.

Once you’re on Buzzsumo’s homepage, select the “Trending Now” tab. In this case, you would select “Fashion” and a certain timeframe.

This is basically to get a broad overview of the mainstream conversations and topics trending within the industry as a whole.

With the information provided on social media platforms and frequency of shared content, choose which outlet to post on and the most opportune time to do so. For our example, it would be best to distribute your material via Facebook on Monday or Friday to garner the most attention.

Buzzsumo is all about getting the proper insight on how to plan your next content move. On the “Monitoring” tab you can set up alerts to make sure you are constantly up-to-date on what is trending within your industry.

2. Posting Consistently

Perhaps the most important ingredient in establishing a strong brand persona on social media is consistency. Consistent posting leads to stronger brand recall, increased engagement and more opportunities to differentiate yourself from competitors.

Given the rapidly-increasing usage numbers, the harsh reality is that managing your accounts is a 24/7 job. The act of manually posting at the most optimal times at the perfect frequency can become a tough chore in itself. So why not leave this task to the robots so you can focus your energy on creating compelling content for your audience? The last thing you want to do is compromise quality for the sake of sticking to a schedule.

For this job, consider tools like Hootsuite, Edgar or Social Jukebox. As a good deal of social media marketers know, creativity can be something that comes in spurts. With platforms like these, you can create your content whenever the mood strike you and assign them to be posted later on the channel of your choice.

Once you have built up a good base of content, you can create an automated posting schedule most likely to garner high-engagement rates.

Now, your only concern is letting your creativity flow while the system makes sure your material is published as frequently as you want. Once all the content has been posted, you can reschedule or in some cases have these platforms do it for you so there is never a break in consistency.

Additionally, you can use analytics to look at brand mentions and engagement to learn what is working for you, and what needs to be improved upon.

Social management tools take away all the stress of schedules and timelines so you can make content creation your number one priority to establishing a strong presence.

3. Analyzing Results

So you’ve researched and crafted top-notch content, found effective ways to distribute it, but what now? How do you keep the conversations on your social pages going?

Social media marketing should be looked at as a constant work-in-progress. Therefore, tracking engagement needs to be a top priority. Enter tools like Brand24 and Talkwalker. When you rev up your campaign and start releasing content on social media, you will be given access to analytics on each piece.

Talkwalker, for example, provides extremely in-depth insights on every social media posting so you are equipped with everything you need to build a campaign that brings your brand in front of as many eyes as possible. From A to Z, this interface will track every action so your social media efforts are constantly moving in the right direction.

You can get details on certain factors like what demographics your posts appeal to most or what countries are most engaged with your brand messaging.

Viewing all the data on your social media campaign is one thing. Planning the next move accordingly will always be a challenging part of your job. However, the good news is that no matter what you do, there will always be another day and more information to learn from. Platforms like these make it much easier to identify the places you need to grow and shape your strategy.

Parting Words

There is only one guarantee when it comes to social media marketing: it is here to stay. However, as consumer mindsets and business needs change, the social media landscape evolves by the hour. The key to navigating these unknown waters is listening to what the masses are saying and maintaining a strong presence around it. Regardless of what your goals are, keep these three things in mind to avoid getting lost in the extremely fast-moving stream of information.

Social Media Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "3 Social Media Tactics You Should Never Overlook" was first published on Small Business Trends

Will Linking to Wikipedia Hurt Your Google Ranking?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 09:30

Over the years, there has been so much debate about how links, both outbound and inbound, can affect a website’s Google ranking. So it’s not surprising that recently another question has been making the rounds.

What’s the SEO Impact of Linking to Wikipedia Pages?

Recently, Jon Tromans, a Twitter user, asked webmaster trends analyst at Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) John Mueller whether websites can be penalized for linking to Wikipedia, the well-known online, community edited encyclopedia.

Mueller’s reply was short and to the point. See blow:

@JonTromans @pablocanog @Google no.

— John ?.o(???)o.? (@JohnMu) March 9, 2017

While some people might not think that Troman’s concern is a valid one, remember that for those whose business relies on Google results, it’s vital. Knowing the answers to some of these questions could determine whether your website succeeds or fails. And now, thanks to Tromans’ question, you know at least that linking to Wikipedia won’t automatically get you in trouble with search.

Remember, however, there might still be a question about whether Wikipedia is the most credible source for you to use. As the site itself explains:

“Wikipedia is increasingly used by people in the academic community, from freshman students to professors, as an easily accessible tertiary source for information about anything and everything. However, citation of Wikipedia in research papers may be considered unacceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a credible or authoritative source. ”

This is in part because Wikipedia is created by users meaning almost anyone can create or edit a page. And while Wikipedia maintains errors are corrected quickly, it’s possible some mistakes might go unnoticed.

Links to questionable sites can make your site or page less credible. And, while a link here or there to Wikipedia certainly won’t cause Google to downgrade your site, it might begin to make readers question the quality of your content.

In the end, this might have the same impact as a Google penalty. If readers don’t trust your content, they won’t read it, share it or link to it.

And Google, which takes its cues in part from users, might see to it your content surfaces less as a result. So look for credible online sources for your links.  The result will be content of better quality and thus of more interest to both your readers and the search engines.

Wikipedia Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Will Linking to Wikipedia Hurt Your Google Ranking?" was first published on Small Business Trends

BlackBerry Introduces Privacy Shade and Other Updates

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 08:30

As BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) fully adopts Android as its operating system, the company is bringing the security features it is renowned for to an OS with a dubious track record when it comes to security. This includes regular updates as well as introducing new apps, which address security and privacy issues. The roll-out of the March security updates come after the introduction of the new KEYone phone at MWC 2017 in Barcelona. This month there is a new app called Privacy Shade, along with additional updates to the existing line of applications.

On the company blog, Michael Clewley, Director of Software Product Management, says:

“Privacy Shade will let you read emails, messages and personal content at any time without worrying about snoopers, even if someone is looking over your shoulder. The app allows you to view private information in public places — like on the train or in a restaurant — by obscuring the parts of the screen that you’re not actively viewing or using, while still allowing you to interact with the obscured parts.”

While worrying about people looking over your shoulder might seem a bit paranoid, visual hacking is a serious problem. It’s one that has led PC, monitor and screen protector manufacturers to come up with solutions to address this issue.

BlackBerry Privacy Shade

With Privacy Shade, BlackBerry has created an app that prevents anyone around you from easily seeing what is on your screen. The concept is actually quite ingenious. Privacy Shade lets you control the area of the screen you are viewing and block out everything else, while still allowing you to interact with the entire screen.

When you turn the BlackBerry Privacy Shade app on, you adjust the transparency of the shade depending on the lighting condition of where you happen to be. Once you make the adjustment, the app exposes the area you are reading or typing in, leaving everything else dark:

Other Updates

The other updates to Blackberry’s Android operating system include a new version of BlackBerry Hub that adds dual-SIM support for BlackBerry smartphones, as well as new features for Kik and Telegram, Android Wear Notifications, Contacts, and DTEK.

Kik and Telegram are popular messaging services for mobile devices, and with the update, users can enable auto cc: or bcc: when sending a message. And according to Clewley, the settings can be applied to individual accounts.

Android Wear Notifications, which is in beta, will let you read and delete Hub items via Android Wear devices with Hub+ notifications.

Another feature has been added finding and linking duplicate contacts to get rid of the clutter.

As for DTEK, BlackBerry’s security monitoring app, users will receive a notification if an OS Integrity issue has been detected.

Image: BlackBerry

This article, "BlackBerry Introduces Privacy Shade and Other Updates" was first published on Small Business Trends

Bad Customer Service Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Business

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 07:30

Your company could be riding on innovative ideas with the likes of Steve Jobs, but none of it will ever matter if your brand’s customer services skills are lacking. Today’s businesses need every possible leg up over their competition, and customer service is proving to be a booming key factor. Unfortunately, most business owners today have little to no strategy when it comes to their customer support system, and unknowingly they end up shepherding new customers right into the arms of their competitors.

Bad Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid

For the business owner hoping to avoid a bad customer service disaster, here are three mistakes to avoid:

Not Training Your Staff Properly, Or Not Training Your Staff At All 

Whether your employees contains an employee count of five or five hundred, the art of customer service training cannot be glossed over for anyone. Failing to train employees of every tier and department on proper customer service behavior is a huge mistake made by too many businesses, big or small. It’s a huge oversight that often ends up hurting sales because there’s no telling when a worker at your company will come face to face with a customer.

Customer service is an area of your business that should be held with equal importance throughout every position at your company. To ensure your employees have an understanding of what qualifies as an acceptable and unacceptable interaction with a customer, be sure to address customer service during employee training specifically. Sit down with your team and take some time to outline the standard of excellence at your business. Be sure to define customer service rules and expectations, doing so thoroughly will also arm your employees with a way of addressing the various unforeseen issues customers might hurdle their way.

Attempting to Win an Argument with a Customer

It’s always worth it for brands to remember that it takes five times more effort and cost to onboard a new customer than it takes to maintain a loyal one. Of course, as a business owner, you’re probably well aware that the customer isn’t “always right.” Still, the sentiment that they should be treated as if they are is essential. Remember, when a client feels agitated or like they’ve been wronged, they’re at a point where they’re not really interested in having someone else prove how they could be right. Avoid efforts to “gain back power” over a situation with a customer by remembering your end goal: ensuring your client’s return.

Make sure that you maintain a positive interaction with your clients by practicing empathy towards their situation. One of the best ways to make a customer feel better about a faulty product or thwarted expectations is to relate to their frustration. Naturally, some interactions might not always motivate you to keep the relationship you have with your customer. In these scenarios, be sure to work to solve a problem with a customer with as much as respect as possible and then help them see their way out the door. Keep in mind that anything that could dissuade a customer from coming back; they will likely hurt you in the form of negative Yelp reviews or a bombardment of social media mentions.

Being Inaccessible

Customers who fail to get into contact with a customer service department will not return to try again. Be sure to secure repeat business for your brand by maintaining a presence that is consistently reachable by customers on multiple platforms. Today’s consumers have an expectation of being able to reach their brands on social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook. They also expect to receive a prompt response: 72 percent of Twitter users expect a response to a customer complaint with the hour.

Avoid making your customers feel as if they are being kept at arm’s-length by training your customer support team to be equipped to address complaints that occur online. Craft an outline for employees that details how to properly address customers via email, and on popular social media platforms. A solid understanding of how to conduct themselves in these interactions will empower your employees to represent the voice and tone of your brand adequately.

Customer Complaint Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Bad Customer Service Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Does It Make Sense for Investors to Pay Carried Interest?

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 06:30

For years, I have resisted paying carried interest to accelerators as a way to invest in start-up companies because I have thought about the decision incorrectly. Recently, a couple of smarter investors than me set me straight by getting me to focus on what really matters — the math.

Over the years I have resisted paying carry for two reasons, neither of which is very good. First, I get a lot of utility out of investing in startups. I like working with and talking to founders. If I put money into an accelerator fund, rather than investing directly in startups, I lose that utility.

But that logic is flawed. I don’t avoid paying money managers to help me find companies to buy in the stock market because I like picking stocks. I pay them to identify opportunities that make financial sense.

Second, I saw paying carry as akin to paying retail prices for clothing or furniture. And my parents always taught me that you should buy wholesale, not retail.

But that logic is also flawed. If you have to drive a long distance and give up a half a day of your time or pay for shipping or installation, buying wholesale isn’t much of a deal.

What Changed My Thinking About Carried Interest in Private Equity?

Recently some smart co-investors showed me an accelerator deal that they were going into. At first I blanched at the 35 percent carried interest and said no way would I go in. But then the investors showed me the math and got me to think about the opportunity differently.

This accelerator invests in 12 companies a year. It puts $50,000 into each company in return for 4.5 percent of the company. That means the pre-money valuation is $50,000/0.045 or $1.1 million before the carry. The fund has a 35 percent carried interest, so the effective pre-money valuation after carry is $1.1 million/0.65, or $1.7 million.

The right way to think about the investment is to think about whether I could create a portfolio of equally good companies in which I invested at an average valuation of $1.7 million.

If I look at the companies that entered the accelerator on the criteria I generally use to set valuation — the quality of the founding team, size of the market and traction to date, the companies in this accelerator look very strong. All of them have founding teams with considerable industry experience in the product markets they are entering. All of them have billion dollar-plus markets. The average revenue is $10,000 per month. I would generally value companies that look like this at considerably more than $1.7 million. After the accelerator fund managers’ carry, I would be investing in these companies at an average valuation 50 percent less than their market valuation.

To create a portfolio of twelve companies takes a lot of work. I generally invest in about four percent of companies that I am introduced to or that send me pitch materials. So to create a portfolio of twelve companies, I have to source and screen about 300 businesses. That takes me at least two hours per day of work six days a week. But with the accelerator, I am getting the same portfolio without any of that effort.

In short, if I can invest effortlessly in a portfolio of start-ups at a valuation roughly two-thirds of their market value, then I should make that investment. If the carried interest that is embedded in that investment calculation is a big, ugly 35 percent, I should ignore it.

Sometimes it pays to pay carry.

Carrying Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Does It Make Sense for Investors to Pay Carried Interest?" was first published on Small Business Trends

McDonald’s Incident Shows Importance of CPR Training for Your Employees

Small Business Trends - Mon, 2017-03-20 05:00

A McDonald’s employee saved the life of a Miami, Fla. police officer by jumping out the drive-thru window Tuesday.

Pedro Viloria, the employee, noticed something odd when the off-duty officer and her two children pulled up to receive their order, reports ABC News.

Viloria said the officer seemed to have trouble breathing when she came to the drive-thru window to grab her food.

“In that moment, I thought, I’d rather save that woman’s life,” Viloria told WPLG. “I see she’s like inflating her neck, like trying to breathe, like ‘ahh,’ and basically I thought something was going wrong.”

Surveillance video shows the car pulling away and running into the median; the police officer was unconscious at the time.

“Her kids were screaming, ‘Mother, mother, stop it, mother what are you doing?’” Viloria said.

Viloria quickly jumped out the window and raced over to the car. He ordered the children to call 911 while he headed back to the restaurant to get more help.

A firefighter entered the McDonald’s as Viloria was looking for more help. The off-duty firefighter performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator machine to bring the woman back.

“I thought if these kids lose their mother today, that’s going to be tragic,” Viloria said. “It is what a hero does. If I needed to die to save that woman, I would have done it.”

McDonald’s praised their employee for his quick thinking in rescuing the officer.

“I think I speak for our McDonald’s family when I say how proud we are of Pedro. He is an excellent employee, so it didn’t surprise me that he took immediate action and jumped through a window to help save this woman,” the company said in a statement.

McDonald’s Drive-Thru Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "McDonald’s Incident Shows Importance of CPR Training for Your Employees" was first published on Small Business Trends

These Events Offer a Spring Thaw After a Late Winter Slump

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-18 13:30

The cold winter months can lead to a lot of small business owners feeling particularly uninspired about their day-to-day operations.

But attending educational events can help entrepreneurs get out of those slumps and start feeling inspired again. There are plenty of great opportunities coming up with the spring thaw, including exciting options like EntreLeadership 1-Day and ICON17.

Happening in Los Angeles in early April, EntreLeadership 1-Day lets you learn the six essentials of business leadership. Taking place this April in Phoenix, ICON17 features educational breakout sessions, inspiring keynote speakers, networking opportunities and more. And it all takes place over three days.

You can learn more about the EntreLeadership 1-Day, ICON17 and other events in the Featured Events section. And then check out even more upcoming opportunities in the list below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Webinar: Learn to Spot the Next Pokémon Go and use it to Drive Customers to your Business
March 22, 2017

Spot and take advantage of important mobile app trends.In this webinar, Anita Campbell, founder of award-winning online publication Small Business Trends, focuses on the wildly successful Pokémon Go mobile app phenomenon. You will learn Pokemon Go is and how it works, how Pokemon Go got started and caught fire, how to use it today to increase trafficand business, how to spot and benefit from the next big mobile app or social media trends. Presented by Anita Campbell.

South Florida Regional Franchise Seminar
March 29, 2017, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Franchise Consulting Company is proud to present our regional seminar to explore the world of franchising in South Florida on Wednesday March 29, 2017 5:30-9:00. We are excited to be joined by several of our leading US franchise partners.

EntreLeadership 1-Day
April 11, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Grow yourself, your team & your profits! At EntreLeadership 1-Day, you will learn the six essentials of business: leadership, people, money, time, team, and higher calling. Dave Ramsey will be joined by business experts Chris Hogan & Christy Wright.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ10 ($10 off)

April 25, 2017, Phoenix, Ariz.

ICON17 is a 3-day conference for small business owners. It’s packed with inspiring keynote speakers, educational breakout sessions on modern business strategies, sales & marketing best practices, Infusionsoft product training, networking.

TECHSPO Toronto 2017
May 18, 2017, Toronto, Ontario

TECHSPO Toronto 2017 is a 2-day technology expo which takes place at the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. TECHSPO Toronto brings together developers, brands, marketers, technology providers, designers, innovators and evangelists looking to set the pace in our advanced world of technology. TECHSPO Toronto 2017 promises to be better than ever and we’re excited to see all the amazing tech companies and talent that will be joining.

Secret Knock
May 22, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Secret Knock is going to be the single greatest event for the top entrepreneurs and action-takers in the world to connect, share ideas, and help take each other to the next level. Each of the attendees have believed in themselves enough to get to where they are, and they are not stopping now. Secure your application for one of the few spots left at the Secret Knock.

Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.

More Events More Contests

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

Winter photo via Shutterstock

This article, "These Events Offer a Spring Thaw After a Late Winter Slump" was first published on Small Business Trends

Wake Up Earlier, Change Up Your About Page and More Community Tips

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-18 12:00

So much goes into running a successful business. But you don’t necessarily need to make huge changes in order to get more efficient. Sometimes little things like waking up earlier or changing up your website can make a big difference over time.

Here are some tips from members of our small business community for how to improve your operations over the long run.

Wake Up Early to Stop Wasting Time

If you sleep in or repeatedly hit snooze each morning during the week, you could be wasting hours of potential productive time. In this Process Street post, Ben Mulholland details how you can wake up earlier to stop wasting those valuable hours.

Create the Perfect About Page

The about page can be one of the most important elements of any small business website. And there are some essential pieces of information that you need to include if you want visitors to be satisfied. This Conversion Minded post by Sandra Clayton includes some tips for making a great about page. And BizSugar members shared thoughts on the post here.

Reduce the Cost of Office Security

If you’re not taking steps to secure your business’s data and equipment, you could be taking a pretty big risk. But some businesses don’t have adequate security simply because of the cost. Here, Itai Elizur shares tips for how you can reduce the cost of office security on

Measure Your Marketing ROI

Almost every business has to expend some resources for marketing. But if you aren’t measuring your return on investment, then you could be missing the mark. Rick Verbanas explains why in this post on the Your Guerrilla Marketer blog.

Use These Signage Tips to Promote Your Business

So much has been made in recent years about new media marketing techniques. But sometimes, good old fashioned signage can be just as effective. Take a look at some signage tips to promote your business in this post by Christina White.

Answer These Common Questions on Your Website

Your customers are likely to head to your website if they have specific questions or want to learn more about your business. So your website should be prepared with that information, as this Marketing Land post by Stoney deGeyter points out.

Build a Strong Social and Community Team

If you’re going to hire people to run your social media and online community efforts, you’d better be sure you have the right team members in your corner. This Search Engine Journal post by Melissa Fach offers some tips for how businesses can build strong teams for their social and community efforts.

Use These Wellness Tips From Successful Entrepreneurs

Your business can only go as far as you can take it. And if you’re not healthy, then you can’t expect to work to your full potential. The wellness tips from successful entrepreneurs and health experts featured in this crowdSPRING post by Katie Lundin might help. And you can also see input from members of the BizSugar community.

Scale Your Business Now

There’s a pretty good chance that some of your goals for the year involve growing your business in some way. But you have to really consider how to most effectively scale your operations in order to avoid growing pains. This CorpNet post by Mike Thatcher goes into more detail.

Increase Your Business’s Growth With Video Marketing

It’s no longer a secret that video can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses. But you might not have an idea of just how much it can contribute to growth if you haven’t tried it yet. Here, Ivan Widjaya of Noobpreneur explains why you should add video to your marketing mix.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to:

Wake-up call photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Wake Up Earlier, Change Up Your About Page and More Community Tips" was first published on Small Business Trends

50 Small Business Ideas for Musicians

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-18 09:30

If you’re musically talented, you already have the potential to make a great entrepreneur. There are plenty of potential business opportunities that let you showcase your musical talents or work in the music industry. Below are different business ideas for musicians.

Business Ideas for Musicians Recording Artist

If you want to play or create your own music, you can build a business as a recording artist where you record tracks and albums, offering them for sale online or in other formats.

Touring Artist

You could also take your talents on the road and build a business as a touring musician. You can make money from selling tickets and merchandise to people at each location you visit.

Local Event Artist

Or you could stick to performances in your local area. Book gigs at local restaurants, clubs and various events to fill out your calendar.

Wedding Band

You could also focus specifically on performing at weddings. Make yourself a website and market your services so that couples can find you and book your services.

Disc Jockey

Many musicians also have great taste in music and know from experience what people like in live settings. So with a little mastering of the technology, they can also make excellent disc jockeys. Disc jockeys are also popular for weddings, clubs and other special events. So you can start your own business and then book various gigs.


If you have the talents to actually write music, you can build a business as a songwriter where you sell your songs or offer your services to other musicians.


You could also carve out a more specific niche as a lyricist, writing the actual words to go along with various melodies.

Session Musician

If you want to play music, but don’t necessarily want to be a headliner, you could work as a session musician. Session musicians work with bands or artists that need backup instrumentals to go along with their songs.

Backup Vocals

You can also offer similar services as a backup vocalists, offering your talents to other musicians on a freelance or contract basis.


A bit more than a songwriter, a composer has the skill set to create not just melodies and accompanying chords but to write more sophisticated arrangements for every instrument.  For someone who has the talent to actually compose full arrangements of music, especially for larger groups of musicians, there’s the possibility of work on scores for movies, TV shows, events and more.


A conductor also has a knowledge of full musical scores and how larger musical groups — like a symphony — work together. They are in charge of leading a group of musicians in the performance of these musical pieces. And this is not just at symphony hall but for commercials, videos or television. With the right training, you could offer your services to various musical entities on a freelance basis.

Jingle Writer

If you want to write quick, catchy tunes, you can also build a business as a jingle writer, working on songs for TV commercials and other advertisements.

Theme Song Creator

Or you could work on slightly longer content by specializing in theme songs for TV, movies or other content.

Song Licensing Business

Similar to product licensing, you can also write songs and then offer to let others use them for various purposes in exchange for a fee.

Street Performer

You don’t necessarily need to have a lot of resources to start a business as a musician. You can actually start a business as a street performer with the proper permits.

Streaming Service Musician

It’s also possible to make some money by recording songs and then offering them on streaming services like Spotify.

Music Teacher

You can also share your musical talents with others. As a teacher, you can start your own school or even offer workshops to people looking to play or write music. You can also do this through a franchise program like School of Rock.

Individual Tutor

Or you could work with clients on a more individual basis as a musical tutor. This can be an especially helpful format if you want to teach people how to play specific instruments like the piano.

Voice Coach

For those whose musical talents lie more with singing than with playing instruments, you can also start a business by working with clients as a voice coach.

Music Producer

You can also work with musicians to get their recordings actually produced. Music producers handle things like song arrangements and recording sessions.

Record Label Owner

Or you could focus more on the business side and start your own record label, signing various artists to record work under your label.

Booking Agent

If you want to focus on live performances, you could help artists book gigs as a booking agent.

Event Promoter

Then you can also build a business that promotes concerts and other music related events, either online or using more traditional methods.

Band Manager

You could also handle pretty much every aspect of keeping a band or musical act running by serving as a band manager.

Recording Studio Owner

Or you could open your own studio and then allow musicians and recording artists to come in and use the space and equipment in exchange for a fee.

Sound Engineer

Sound engineering is a specific focus within the recording industry. You can offer your services to musicians who want someone to help create the best possible sound quality for their recordings.

Sound Effects Producer

Musicians, movie producers and others can also use the services of sound effects producers. While not necessarily directly music related, offering this type of service can use many of the same talents.

Video Game Audio Creator

Similarly, you can focus on creating sound effects, music and other audio elements for video games.

Cover Band Musician

If you want to play music but not necessarily write your own songs, you could start a cover band playing other musicians’ songs at small events in your local community or in other communities.

Parody Artist

Or you could even start a business as a parody artist, turning popular songs into fun spoofs to be performed live, through other meda or on YouTube or other online video channels.

Music Therapist

Music therapy is a growing industry. You can start your own business as a music therapist or even offer your services at places like nursing homes.

Music Video Director

For those who are also visually oriented, you can start a business as a music video director for artists.

YouTube Personality

Or you can showcase your own talents in videos on YouTube and make money from the ads or royalties from the site.

Music Website

You could also start your own website where you showcase and sell your music using a platform like WixMusic.

Music Blogger

If you want to write about music or even share multimedia on your own site, you can start your very own music blog and run it as a business.

Music Podcaster

For a more audio focused format, you could start your own podcast where you share songs and thoughts about music.

Instrument Rental Service

If you have access to a decent supply of musical instruments, you could start a business by offering to rent out those instruments to other musicians.

Instrument Repair Service

Or you could offer repair services to musicians and anyone who owns various musical instruments.

Musician in Residence

For those who want to play music but stick to a more steady schedule and location, you could offer your services to just one or two locations. For example, you could play at a specific restaurant in your area every Friday evening on an ongoing basis.

Singing Telegram Service

You could also offer a sort of telegram service for people who want to send friendly messages in musical form.

Karaoke Service

Or you could help others showcase their own musical talents, or lack thereof, by starting a karaoke service.

Music Festival Organizer

You could also focus on more serious musical events, organizing festivals that feature multiple artists and groups.

Concert Venue Owner

Or you could open your own venue and host concerts and other music related events.

Merchandise Seller

Lots of musicians also bring in an income by selling merchandise. You can make it available at concerts so that you can make money even at free shows. And you can also sell products online.

Record Store Owner

Though musical talent isn’t an actual requirement to open a record store, it can be a popular business for the musically minded. And you can even host shows or open mic nights if you have enough space.

Voiceover Artist

You can also offer your services to companies and movie or commercial producers as a voice artist. Not every job will necessarily require singing, but it’s a good thing to have on your resume.

Music Social Network Leader

For entrepreneurs who are skilled with technology and the music industry, consider starting your own social network that’s specifically for helping musicians share their skills and helping listeners find new bands and artists.

Musical Mobile App Developer

You could also put your talents into mobile app development, working on new apps for playing, finding or writing music.

Music Magazine Publisher

For the more old school entrepreneurs, you can also start a zine or other print publication aimed at musicians or music fans.

Music Reviewer

And finally, reviewing music doesn’t necessarily require one to have musical talent. But having that understanding can certainly help. You can start your own review site or even offer your talents on a freelance basis.

Keyboard Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Small Business Ideas for Musicians" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Must-Read Books to Launch Your Small Business Idea

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-18 07:00

Whether you plan to launch the next multi-million dollar business or have plans for something a little smaller, your company needs to acquire the right set of resources to accomplish your goals an either launch your business or take it to the next stage of development. There are plenty of resources out there for business owners who need angel investors, venture capital or just want to polish their elevator pitches to help them get up and running or expand.

Business Startup Books to Launch Your Next Big Idea

But what if you don’t need (or even want) all of that? What if you just want to pursue your BIG business dream without getting caught up in the complicated world of raising investment dollars? We’ve got a list of business startup books you should read.

Small Time Operator by Bernard B. Kamoroff C.P.A.

One of the biggest issues when starting a small business is, in fact, taking care of all the details. As a business owner, you are responsible for filling out the right paperwork and paying the right fees to the right people so you can stay in business.

Written by business taxation expert, Bernard B. Kamoroff, this comprehensive, beginner-friendly guide walks readers through the information they will need to obtain the proper permits and licensing, set up bookkeeping, and pay taxes at the local, state, and federal level.

In addition, the book covers tax and business planning information for doing business in the new “gig” economy including starting a work-at-home business, working with your spouse, working with freelancers and even working within a work-owned collective. Small Time Operator is a must have for small business owners who need help laying the financial groundwork for their own home businesses, who own a small local business or franchise, who run a husband-wife partnership, or do anything else in between.

Clarity For Solos by Adam Dudley

What if you want to own a business by yourself? While working by yourself might seem like the ideal situation for any over-achieving person with drive and a good business idea, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Clarity for Solos was written to help with those difficult times.

Written by Adam Dudley, a productivity coach and solopreneur himself, the book offers practical strategies for dealing with the mental and emotional chaos that can ensue in you business when the entrepreneur in charge (that’s you) is getting overwhelmed. Readers will find tips on reigniting your dedication to your business, strategies for improving productivity and methods for refining your business to develop a better work-life balance.  In “Clarity for Solos”, Dudley taps into his own personal experience and coaching with other solopreneurs to provide a book that is tailored for the solo professional who is simultaneously in charge of their business dream and of the path to get there.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Performance is the one thing that separates great businesses from good ones. How do businesses perform well? It starts with the day-to-day activities and decisions of the staffs in those businesses. In Tools of Titans, author Tim Ferriss delves into the same topics as he does in his highly-acclaimed podcast but on a deeper level.

Ferriss, writer of one of the best-selling business books in modern times that revolutionized the world of work The 4-Hour Workweek, offers a peek into the life of the habits and routines of world-class performers. Some of the people quoted in this book include Tony Robbins, Daymond John, Morgan Spurlock and Seth Godin, all interviewed with the insightful depth and quirkiness for which Ferris is known. Throughout the book, Ferriss takes some time to break down how these habits and routines can be adapted to your life. For any fan of Ferris or of productivity in general, “Tools of Titans” offers a unique perspective of performance by taking an overview of success and mapping out a path to help the reader duplicate it.

Idea Craft by Sarah Korhnak

It is said that everyone has at least one idea that could become a profitable business. If you’ve ever seriously considered turning that business idea into a business reality, Idea Craft can help guide you through the incredible array of options out there to find the perfect business that works for you.

The first part of the book helps solidify and narrow your potential business dreams into something that matches your personality. (Note: A business, no matter the size, must match your lifestyle and personality in order to work and scale.) Following that, the next two sections focus on taking that dream and shaping it into a viable business that can grow and evolve along with you. The co-host of a business podcast for mompreneurs, author Sarah Korhnak uses her life’s story and experience to help any prospective entrepreneur find and define their business idea into a viable and profitable business reality.

The Entrepreneur’s Garden by Divya Parekh

Despite all of the high-tech innovation that is fueling business, entrepreneurship is and will always be about relationships. In The Entrepreneur’s Garden motivational speaker and leadership coach Divya Parekh helps readers understand how relationships impact everything in their personal and professional lives.

Parekh uses the fictional story of Sally and Dee to illustrate her point. Dee serves as a mentor to Sally as she struggles to maintain the relationships she has with the people (like partners) and resources (like money) in her life. Through their interaction, Sally comes to learn that these relationships aren’t an obstacle, strain or something on a to-do list in her entrepreneurial journey. They are a part of that journey. In order to succeed in her personal and professional life, she has to cultivate those relationships. And by learning to do the same, every entrepreneur will be able to live a full and proactive life leaving a legacy and planting seeds of inspiration to motivate others. Thus every entrepreneur’s legacy is to motivate others who continue in the pursuit of excellence he or she began.

Small Giants by Bob Burlingham

As discussed in Small Giants, the business world has become obsessed with the “growth treadmill”. It’s all about getting the most money, the most customers and the most attention in the quickest amount of time. Is this chase on the “growth treadmill” actually leading to a sustainable profitable business, however? Not necessarily as journalist and editor Bo Burlingham found out.

In “Small Giants”, Burlingham explores the decisions and consequences of business leaders who decided to step away from the “growth treadmill” and instead chase excellence. Burlingham explores the history and (most importantly!) the series of decisions that caused these leaders to “opt out” of the traditional approach to growth. The companies discuussed include Anchor Brewing, a microbrewery with roots starting in the 19th century, and Zingerman’s Deli, a small deli that became famous for its food as well as for the long lines waiting to get that food.  In striving for excellence instead of for the more traditional definition of growth, Burlingham suggests these small businesses decided to become big where it counts, with their customers.

Superconsumers by Eddie Yoon

As a business owner, you earn profits by always  striving for more. You either get more customers or a greater share of their wallet. For those business owners looking for a greater “wallet share”, Superconsumers, by expert growth strategist Eddie Yoon, suggests a strategy he believes has the greatest chance of success. That strategy is to target something Yoon calls the “superconsumer”. Superconsumers are the dedicated users of your product or service who integrate your business into their personal or professional lives at a deeper level of commitment than the average customer.

Although the superconsumer resides at the very top of the sales funnel, they have a large (and growing) influence on businesses. Yoon, who claims to have helped companies earn over $1 billion in profits, shows businesses how they can leverage this new breed of “consumer” to achieve a deeper “mind share” of the customer base as a whole. From there, “Superconsumers” shows readers how to maintain that culture so that more and more customers cross the line into the “superconsumer” category.

In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney

Written by design blogger Grace Bonney who created a design blog generating over 75,000 daily views, In the Company of Women invites readers into the world of female entrepreneurship in the creative economy. The book shares how women all over the globe are tapping into their creative potential to create successful businesses. In the Company of Women is more than an interview with 100 creative women.

It is a look into what allowed them to step forward and bring their creativity into the world. It is also a look into how these successful women maintained their creativity while sustaining a business, something that is difficult for business owners of all types to do. Yet it’s something that’s also critical to maintain in a world where creativity is a strategic and financial asset.  With beautiful photographs, In the Company of Women is a work of creative art in its own right, that provides inspiration, strategy and guidance for women who have the drive and discipline to transform their creativity from dream to a very real and sustainable reality.

Lead The Ship by Edward and Rebecca Plant

Written by a husband and wife team, Lead the Ship is a look at the difficulties organizations face when trying t achieve a sense of teamwork among employees. The book analyzes how leaders like Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson completely revolutionized the way leadership was viewed. Because of their leadership, they were able to attract and maintain a culture of exceptional talent that helped them reach ever higher levels of performance.

After analyzing those leaders, authors Edward and Richard Plant then help readers develop and refine a new vision of their leadership based on this expanded and redefined view, a view the authors say will allow them to achieve extremely high levels of productivity and financial success. From this point on, the book helps readers leverage the self-sustaining culture they co-create with their workers based on timeless principles and experience from high-performing teams like the military and many high-performing business brands.

Hopping over the Rabbit Hole by Anthony Scaramucci

Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole talks about the subject that most small business owners don’t want to discuss — until it’s too lat. That topic, of course, is failure. Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of a $12-billion investment services firm, helps business leaders find the practical value of leveraging failure for business gain. Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole encourages business owners to use smart strategies to transform their fears into lessons and opportunities for stronger relationships and more resilient leadership.

Besides the advice for your business after encountering failure, Scaramucci spends a considerable amount of time on the business owner during his or her entrepreneurial journey out of failure into success. The book details how to maintain your personal integrity and values under the trials of leadership. Scaramucci also discusses defining and protecting your personal and business brand, and working through the network of relationships that helps your business achieve the success it deserves on the other side of failure.

Pre-Invest in Knowledge Before You Invest in Your Business

As these business startup books demonstrate, there are lots of issues and decisions to work through in your business, whether you plan to create a side business or a multi-national brand. No matter what type of business you ultimately decide to build, business ownership is about one thing, connecting with people to leverage their inner resources (talent, creativity, etc.) to transform a business dream into reality.

By taking the time to really think through your business idea before launching it, you can move one step closer to creating the business you envision..

Books Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Must-Read Books to Launch Your Small Business Idea" was first published on Small Business Trends

Maine Dairy Lawsuit Demonstrates the Importance of Little Details Like Grammar (Watch)

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-17 15:30

Think the little details like grammar don’t matter when it comes to the big picture of running a business? Think again.

A dairy business in Maine just learned this lesson the hard way. A group of the company’s drivers recently sued the business for overtime pay. And they won a huge settlement due to a missing Oxford comma.

According to Maine law, workers who are involved in “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution” of some food products are ineligible for overtime pay. But the drivers were able to successfully argue that the law only exempts those who pack for shipment or those who pack for distribution — not those who pack for both.

There are some style guides that say not to use the Oxford comma. But in this case, it probably could have helped to clarify. And that one tiny detail led to Oakhurst Dairy having to pay millions of extra dollars it didn’t originally budget for.

It’s Important to Pay Attention to Detail in Business

The lesson for others here is to pay attention to detail in business, no matter how small. Even if you think something is so small that it can’t really affect your business, there may come a day when a specific situation brings those details to light.

Milk Cows Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Maine Dairy Lawsuit Demonstrates the Importance of Little Details Like Grammar (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Pinterest Unveils New Visual Tool, More Social Media and Business News

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-17 13:30

Businesses that use social media tools like Pinterest got a useful new option this week. The visually focused platform added some discovery options for users to perform visual searches.

But not all businesses use tools like Pinterest. In fact, a new study shows that nearly a quarter of businesses don’t use any social media. You can read about these updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media Pinterest Unveils Lens for Visual Search

Pinterest has finally launched Lens point-and-shoot discovery tool to everyone on Android and iOS in the U.S. Pinterest Lens is one of three visual discovery features introduced by Pinterest recently. The feature simply allows users to snap a photo or use an existing image on their camera roll to find pins and themes related to the photo.

24 Percent of Small Businesses Don’t Use Social Media – At All

Sometimes, small businesses are quick to adopt new technology. Other times, they’re slow or hesitant or skeptical or too busy to even know it exists. It’s that way with social media. According to the Clutch 2017 Small Business Social Media Survey, 24 percent of small businesses have zero social media presence. That’s just about one in four small business owners.

The Average Brand Sees Highest Engagement on Instagram, Study Says

When it comes to social media engagement, Instagram is a clear leader. That’s according to a new report by TrackMaven, a marketing software company. The company’s 2017 Digital Marketing Analytics Performance Report found that the average brands in 12 out of 13 analyzed industries saw the highest engagement ratio on Instagram.

Economy Hiscox Launches California Small Business Workers’ Compensation Insurance Offering

Owners of companies providing professional business services ranging from IT to architecture in California now have the option to purchase state-mandated workers’ compensation insurance through Hiscox (LON:HSX). The international and national small business insurer made the announcement of the new option recently.

Business Credit Scores Suggest These 10 States Are Best Positioned for Growth

Running a business is a challenge no matter where you are, but in some states operating a company is relatively easier. According to a new report by Nav, a financial services company for small businesses, examining the average business credit scores in each state might be one way to determine which states have the best atmosphere for business growth.

Employment Flu Season Hits Small Businesses Especially Hard — And It’s Not Over Yet

Just as it’s obvious that winter is not over yet, neither is the flu season. While March is the end of the peak flu season, it’s also a great time for small businesses to get prepared for the next one. Prepare for the flu season? Absolutely. Flu Season Hits Small Businesses Hard The impact of the flu on small businesses is big.

E-Verify Now Optimized on Mobile Devices

The legal status of your employees is as important as ever. Some businesses have already seen disruptions when their staff was detained by immigration officials like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). One tool that’s designed to help employers is E-verify.

Why Your Business Should Be Embracing the Coming Freelancing Revolution

It is a good time to start a business. Not only can you have Fortune 500 infrastructure at a small business price through cloud services, but you also can add staff and specialist expertise on a pay-as-you go model through the rise in popularity of independent contractors. There’s no longer a scale issue.

Green Business This Scientific Breakthrough Could Impact Your Business

Air pollution is a growing concern in many metropolitan areas around the world. But while some are working to curb the amount of pollution that gets released into the air going forward, people are already dying due to the current levels. In fact, around 3 million deaths a year are linked to outdoor air pollution.

Marketing Tips New Business Shows Power of Having a Really Specific Target Market

When starting a business, it’s important to have a specific target market in mind. Some businesses target large groups like millennials or women. But others get even more specific. Take the case of ExpressionMed.

New Pesticide Report Could Do More Harm Than Good for Produce Sellers

When you hear about pesticides and other chemicals contaminating fruits and vegetables, it can make those foods sound less appealing. That’s the effect that a recent report, claiming that even conventionally grown fruits and vegetables face pesticide contamination, might have. Some fruits and veggies are more prone to contain pesticides than others.

Retail Trends Waitr App Creates Opportunities for Restaurants, Gigs for Drivers

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) 7 in 10 restaurants are single-unit operations, with the vast majority of those classified as a small business. For these owners, every new technology or marketing platform that brings in customers is welcomed with open arms, which is how the Waitr app is being received.

Does a Spike in Bottled Water Sales Mean Trouble for Coca-Cola and Pepsi?

U.S. consumers bought more bottled water than soda in 2016 for the first time ever, but Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. will be fine. Consumption of bottled water reached 39.3 gallons per capita last year, surpassing the 38.5 gallons of soda per capita consumed, according to data from the Beverage Marketing Association.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Startmarke Offers Customizable Marketing Options Specifically for Startups

Marketing a startup isn’t a straightforward process. There are countless different routes that businesses can take to get the word out. So it can be invaluable for those businesses to have some help when they’re starting out. And that’s exactly the type of thing that Startmarke provides.

Finance Small Business Lending at Big Banks Hits New Post-Recession High

Big banks continue to believe in the potential of small businesses. The latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index reveals small business loan approval at big banks improved to 24.1 percent in February 2017. This marks the seventh consecutive month of increases and the eleventh time in a calendar year that approval percentages have increased.

27 Percent of Small Business Owners Use Same Bank Account for Business and Personal

Managing finances is a key priority for small businesses. Yet many business owners make financial mistakes that may cost them dearly. For example, a new study has revealed 27 percent of small business owners use the same checking account for personal and business finances.

Startup eBay Launches Season 2 of Open for Business Podcast

After having a successful first season, Gimlet Creative and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) have returned with season two of Open for Business — a show about building your business from the ground up.  The first season ranked number one among business podcasts on iTunes last June.

Technology Trends 3 Important New Cyber Security Trends

If 2016 was the year of cyber attacks, 2017 is the year of prevention. Twelve months ago, experts were predicting an increase in the innovation and sophistication of cyber attacks and a greater breakdown in security measures on a global scale.

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Traffic jams could soon be a thing of the past thanks to some innovative technology and a new partnership. Italdesign just unveiled a new concept that it’s working on with Airbus — yes, the company that manufactures airplanes. But the concept isn’t just a run of the mill flying car, if that’s what you were thinking. It actually consists of a few different components.

Pinterest Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Pinterest Unveils New Visual Tool, More Social Media and Business News" was first published on Small Business Trends

Michelle Huff of Act-On: Adaptive Journeys Leverage Machine Learning to Scale Personalization for Customers

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-17 12:00

No two customers are exactly alike. And that being the case, it’s highly unlikely their journeys to “customer-hood” are the same either.

As more channels and devices continue to proliferate, different people or companies will take several routes to becoming a customer. So it’s becoming more important everyday to find ways to make sure that path leads to your business.

That means having your organization ready to adapt early and often to changes in customer behavior. This makes it easy for them to move in your direction.

Michelle Huff, CMO of marketing automation platform Act-On, shares with us the idea of adaptive journeys, and how technology like machine learning and artificial intelligence can help you provide a more personalized pathway to engage individual customers and prospects at scale.

Here’s an recap of our conversation. To hear the full interview click on the embedded player below.

* * * * *

Small Business Trends: Why don’t you give us a little bit of your personal background?

Michelle Huff: I’ve been in high tech for a long time and started off in marketing at a small company. Then headed to a mid-sized business selling website technology and content. Moved to, we were acquired by Oracle. I spent five years at Oracle, and then went to Salesforce, and so was actually there for four years. Ran marketing, product management, was their general manager before heading over to Act On here as their CMO. It’s been a fun journey.

Small Business Trends: Describe what you’re calling Adaptive Journeys, and how it compares to what we traditionally hear when we hear the term Customer Journey?

Michelle Huff: Thinking about marketing, we’ve always tried to find ways to make it personalized. We think in personas. We think about nurture tracks.

But I think as buyers, we don’t like stereotypes of people, but in some sense when we’re always kind of forced down these predefined paths. I know it feels like no matter what I do I always end up getting the same white paper. It feels like a stereotype from a buying standpoint. It’s a little frustrating when we hear from the company when they want something from us. The last interaction is when marketing thinks we’re done, right? We converted a lead to a customer. High five, we’re over, and we don’t come back until we’re trying to do an upsell program.

I think marketing has been trying to adapt, and think about how we make that journey with the customer more personalized, more authentic. How do we start engaging with them on the channels that they want to? We know, it’s hard to adapt to make it much more authentic, and adapt to these channels.

Looking at all those challenges, we were thinking how can machine learning help this? Because in some sense, trying to track and score and measure and connect all the different interactions and learn from it is hard by that scale. What we’re wanting to do is build this into marketing automation, so that as marketers, when we build out these journeys and when people interact with us, it can adapt and change to the message that they want. The message that’s right for them, at the time they’re ready to engage, and in the channel that they want.

Small Business Trends: How does all this wealth of information coming in from all these different channels and different perspectives, how does that help the modern marketer today connect and stay connected along that journey?

Michelle Huff: I think for me, when we think of artificial intelligence and insights, it needs to be actionable. It’s really hard when you just have to, as marketing, go to some separate place to be learning from stuff, off cycle. Then thinking about how you want to apply it. One that we’ve tried to think about is something really specific like when to send an email.

There’s the marketing thing of, “Do I send the email at nine AM on a Tuesday? Do I send it at 10 AM on a Wednesday? Often times we’ll put in, especially for marketing automation we’ll put in a few. Not just 10 AM at headquarters. It’s 10 AM in this specific timezone. While that’s great, if you think about how we come up with that decision, sometimes it’s literally just a thumb in the air. Finger in the air, “Let’s go for nine”.

We do have separate insights. We look at our past campaigns and we try to take a look at the open rates and see, “Guess what. Based on this we tend to get better open rates if we send it on this specific day of the week”. It takes a little time. You have to look. You also have to take some risk and try different days and times with other messages. But it’s ultimately always a little bit of a guesswork. It’s also an aggregate. No matter what, even if you pick nine AM because it’s a better open rate, there’s a lot of other people where maybe that’s not the optimal time, and you are kind of blanket applying that to everyone. It’s that stereotype again.

Where I think about the insights, it’s not just knowing, but how do we take that information and apply it into what we do, and an easy way for marketers to do. Even if the answer was available but you had to answer hundreds of questions in a week, and all of them required an analyst to sit down and review things for days, it’s not really practical.

How do we take that and actually go through, and in real time continue to learn and apply it, so that ultimately what marketing has to do is just pick a button and say, “Why don’t you just send this email when it’s the optimal engagement time for each unique person,” so when it goes out you might read yours at seven o’clock in the morning.

I’ve got two small kids. So I actually read a ton of my stuff at 10 or 11 o’clock at night.

As a marketer, I just had to pick a button, and for me, one day my kids will grow up. I might not stay to be a 10 or 11 o’clock person, and it might change. The nice thing is, artificial intelligence for all these insights will keep learning and adapting based on those changes.

Small Business Trends: How does this technology, and automated insights, change the relationship that marketing has with the sales folks?

Michelle Huff: How I’ve always thought of marketing and sales is that, even as a business leader, if you had the ideal way to interact with your customers you would want the best sales rep to be one-to-one interacting with every single one of your customers. They would be the ones who would remember their birthdays, just check in to see how they’re doing, read about an article and be like, “Based on this last conversation we had, I thought you might find this interesting”.

Once they become customers — “How’s it going?”– Just constantly interacting in a great way, and in a personalized way.

The challenge is, as we grow businesses, we can’t have a one to one rep for every customer we have. Marketing has really helped scale that relationship, especially as the journey’s disrupted and people start researching before they even reach out to anyone in the company. How do we make sure they have the right brand experience and provide the right set of information?

Once we get to know them, how do we remember them and say, “Based on this last thing you thought were interested in, I thought you might find this article interesting too.”

If we can find ways to have what we send out in marketing be more personalized and authentic, reaching out in the channel they prefer, when they’re most ready to engage. That really helps us align even closer with sales. Because it almost frees up their time in making their time the most optimal. It almost makes the partnership stronger.

Small Business Trends: How quickly do marketers have to get up to speed with this idea of adaptive journeys and leveraging the data and the machine learning, to have those nuggets delivered so that they can keep up?

Michelle Huff: It is a struggle. I feel like every time I talk to people in marketing we’re running. We’re trying to adapt. I guess how I’ve always thought about it is, it’s an evolution. If you look at social media, there’s still many people marketing who are still trying to figure out better ways to interact and engage with people in those channels.

One way that we’ve thought about adaptive journeys have been some of the journeys we see in our own personal lives with Google Maps and Waze and how you put in your destination, and based on knowing all these different points of data, where you’re at in your journey with your phone and your GPS, and layering in all these different data, it starts recommending and learning your frequent destinations. Your commuting hours. Your preferred routes. It’s going and doing all of that.

It’s providing this information, and from a marketing automation standpoint it’s going to be doing that too.

There’s still a lot of people I talk to in marketing that aren’t even using marketing automation. I feel like if you are wanting to take advantage of this, at least starting to think about, “How do I start putting in and thinking about the full customer lifecycle? How do I start putting in a lot of my assets and programs and putting them into systems so it’s starting to track and score and measure?”

Small Business Trends: With all this great technology folks like you and other companies put out that really improves the ability to understand what’s on the mind of customers in real time, are you surprised at the slow adoption of marketing automation technology?

Michelle Huff: I am. It’s interesting, It really depends on the industry too. We do see often times in high tech a lot of marketers, they take advantage of these types of technologies faster. There’s other types of industries where they’re just starting to. It does surprise me sometimes because I’ve been in high tech for a while and I’ve used it for a while. I keep thinking, “How do people survive?”. Because you can really do so much more.

But I do see a tipping point, and I do see more conversations, and people hearing about it.

This article, "Michelle Huff of Act-On: Adaptive Journeys Leverage Machine Learning to Scale Personalization for Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends

70 Percent of Small Businesses Still Don’t Use Tax Software

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-17 10:30

Despite arguably making lives easier, tax software is not used by a majority of small businesses. That’s according to a new report by Office Depot (NASDAQ:ODP), the office supply retailing company.

The company’s latest Small Business Index survey (PDF) reveals 70 percent of small business owners did not use tax software when they filed their taxes in 2016.

What’s more, 24 percent of large small businesses (those with 50-99 employees) still use paper forms compared to the 20 percent that use tax software.

Many business owners, however, are planning to use more technology when they file taxes in 2017, the report says.

About 21 percent of small business owners are looking to use more technology and use less paper this year. Moreover, 61 percent are planning to make changes in how they filed their taxes.

It’s worth noting that many business owners still wait until the last minute before they file their taxes. Specifically, 11 percent of business owners said they waited to file their taxes on Tax Day or asked for an extension.

Software Tools Can Make Tax Filing Easier

Software tools for tax filing can save time, resources and eliminate the risks of calculation errors.

“Tax software can provide SMB owners with the flexibility to file their taxes at their own pace,” Christine Nessen, senior director of contract marketing for Office Depot said in a release announcing the survey.

Time saved on filing taxes can be better spent on other business tasks.

Florida-based Office Depot interviewed 1,500 small businesses online for the survey.

TurboTax Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "70 Percent of Small Businesses Still Don’t Use Tax Software" was first published on Small Business Trends

Beginners Guide to Developing a Mobile Strategy

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-17 09:30

Odds are your business has been talking about developing a “mobile strategy.” If you are not, you should move it to the top of your to-do list because there’s an excellent chance that your competition is.

The first step in developing a mobile strategy is to understand just what a mobile strategy is. To many small businesses, mobile means logistics and shipping.  But, to your millennial customer base, mobile is no longer moving products, it’s a lifestyle.

It’s about communicating with people on their mobile devices. But you probably already knew that. What you may not know is how to do it, or why it’s so important. Let’s deal with both of those questions, starting with the “why.”

The Importance of a Mobile Strategy for Your Business

It was roughly two decades ago that the rush for every business was to have a website. Nobody was quite sure what to do with their online presence, but they knew it was important to have one.

Web sites did a lot of things for businesses, and still do today. Some used them as storefronts or news hubs or ways to distribute content or only advertise themselves. But times have changed. We’re a long way from that Wild West era of internet development. In fact, we know exactly what’s happening right now.

What’s happening is that mobile device use is taking over. In 2008, 80 percent of digital media engagement was on a desktop or laptop computer, compared with only 12 percent on a mobile device. By 2015, not only had overall digital media consumption nearly doubled, but 51 percent of all digital media consumption was on mobile, compared to only 42 percent on desktop or laptop.

That’s a jump from an average of 0.3 hours per day on mobile to 2.8 hours on mobile, in just seven years.

The writing on the wall is clear. Mobile isn’t the future — it’s the present. It’s already upon us, and businesses all around you are finding new ways to connect with existing customers and draw in potential ones.

What a “mobile strategy” is for is to draw out a way to connect with these customers on the devices that keep them connected. If you join with them in the place they connect with the rest of the world, you keep yourself relevant in their fast-paced lives.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Hey, my company has a website, and we put a lot of money into making that website mobile-friendly. Isn’t that enough?”

A few years ago, that might have been enough. But the world is changing, and in today’s mobile landscape, all that’s good for is getting you left in the dust by your competition.

Don’t believe me? You don’t have to. The research is already out there that says only 11 percent of people’s time on mobile devices is spent on mobile websites. The other 89 percent is spent in apps. Interpreted a different way, that means if your business’s mobile strategy ends at “our site is mobile-friendly,” then you’re missing out on at least 89 percent of your potential audience.

Put another way; you’re missing out on a slice of a $3.1 trillion mobile market pie, which is expected to grow to over $3.7 trillion in 2020.

In all, Americans check their phones a total of 8 billion times a day. If you’re not on their phones, you’re missing 8 billion chances a day to connect with the people who keep your business going.

So, now that you understand what’s at stake, we’re back to our initial problem: What does it even mean to have a mobile marketing strategy? What does it entail? How do you do it?

Here’s a good place to start.

Creating an App

“Oh, sure,” you say. “Just build an app. You make it sound so simple; like I can just snap my fingers and have an app.”

Okay, fair enough. It’s not as simple as just saying “let’s build an app.” But it’s probably not nearly as difficult as you think it is. With the explosion of demand for mobile apps, so too has the ability for small and medium-sized businesses to create supply.

At one point, building an app may have meant hiring an entire development team to program something from scratch. Now, easy to use app builders let you take a pre-established, unbranded app template, fill it with your content and branding, and customize it to your needs.

All this costs a fraction of what a full-scale development project from scratch would cost, and it has allowed businesses of all sizes to get engaged in the mobile market. It gets you into the market faster, avoids the pitfalls of first-time development, and lets you focus on your customers.

All you have to do is know what you want your app to do. Not sure about that either? No problem. A lot of white-label app services will walk you through it, but we’re going to do it here first.

What Your App Can Do

The basic functions of a mobile app aren’t anything unusual, and they mirror a lot of things websites can do, just in a streamlined way — providing a storefront, information about your business, content, etc.

These aren’t unique features by any stretch, just the basics that any business app will do. What you want is something that’s going to drive interest, and create sales where there otherwise wouldn’t have been.

Digital coupons are a good start for this. These are exactly what they sound like. They’re coupons, special offers that compel people to buy something from you, delivered directly to a user’s mobile device. However, there is a huge advantage to app-delivered digital coupons over physical ones.

First off, physical coupons are something you have to spend money on printing and distributing. Then, once you do get them sent out, they tend to be circulated to a huge percentage of people who will deposit them directly into the nearest trash can.

Now, contrast this to a digital coupon strategy. If you’re distributing your coupons directly through your app, not only does it cost you nothing to print and distribute them, but you also have a captive audience. These coupons are going directly to the people who have shown enough interest in your business to download your app. That translates to a much higher conversion rate.

Of course, people are going to have plenty of apps installed on their phones. How do you make them notice yours?

Push alerts are an option, where you can send a pop-up notification to the user’s phone, but they must be used sparingly. Send them out occasionally, when you have an offer or announcement that’s critical. Otherwise, they may block the notifications, or worse, uninstall the app entirely.

You can also use a relatively new location-based technology called geofencing. This will allow you to send a custom-tailored message to people with your app within a certain distance from your actual business location.

For retail businesses, this can be a digital coupon or a special offer that is only available in-store. For restaurants, it can advertise the day’s special menu. Whatever your kind of business, you can use geofencing to give people that last push to get them in the door and ready to buy.

Putting It All Together

These are just a couple ideas to start putting together a fully-featured mobile strategy. You have a lot of options, but the basics of mobile strategy are simple: You want to engage your customers in a personalized way, on the device they spend most of their time with.

Mobile apps make this easier than ever, since most of the time, users will input their preferences about what they’re interested in voluntarily. This is valuable market research, simply given away for free by the very people you most want to target.

The best way for you to start is to think about what kinds of communication and marketing you want to do to engage with customers and create new ones. Once you’ve done that, you can put some time into finding the best white-label apps and services to do it for you.

Once you’ve done that much, you’re off to claiming your piece of the $3.1 billion mobile market pie.

Mobile Technology Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Beginners Guide to Developing a Mobile Strategy" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Business Lending at Big Banks Hits New Post-Recession High

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-17 08:30

Big banks continue to believe in the potential of small businesses.

The latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index reveals small business loan approval at big banks improved to 24.1 percent in February 2017. This marks the seventh consecutive month of increases and the eleventh time in a calendar year that approval percentages have increased.

Biz2Credit Lending Index February 2017 Big Banks Approved More Small Business Loans

According to the index, loan approval rates at big banks in a year-to-year comparison are up more than one full percentage point.

“There is a confidence in the economy right now, and that is translating to higher loan approval rates at mainstream lending institutions,” said Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora, who oversaw the research.

Small business owners are optimistic that there are bright days ahead and are applying for capital to invest in growing their businesses.”

Significantly, institutional lenders’ loan approval rates also grew. The report shows they improved to 63.5 percent, reaching a new Index high.

Lending Low and Stagnant Elsewhere

Lending approval rates at small banks, however, dropped for the first time in the last six months. Loan approval rates declined by one-tenth of a percent to 48.8 percent.

Likewise, lending approval rates at alternative lenders saw a decline. In February 2017, alternative lenders approved 58.4 percent of the loan requests they received, down from 58.5 percent in January.

Loan approval rates at credit unions remained stagnant at 40.8 percent.

For its monthly index, Biz2Credit analyzes loan requests ranging from $25,000 to $3 million from companies in business more than two years with an average credit score above 680. Unlike other surveys, the results are based on primary data submitted by more than 1,000 small business owners who applied for funding on Biz2Credit’s online lending platform, which connects business borrowers and lenders.

Image: Biz2Credit

This article, "Small Business Lending at Big Banks Hits New Post-Recession High" was first published on Small Business Trends