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Internet Entrepreneur Smackdown: These 5 Mistakes Could Hurt Your Business

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 17:30

When you run a business, you don’t have the luxury to philosophize about mistakes and learn lessons from them. Mistakes may be the proof that you are trying, but simply trying is not enough when a single mistake can pull your business a notch down in the competition.

However, millennial entrepreneurs who hope to profit off the Internet, are hardwired to make mistakes. What are some common mistakes they make? What steps should they follow to avoid them? Keep reading to find the answers.

Beginner Entrepreneur Mistakes Being Overly Perfectionist

A perfectionist wants things to be perfect. He looks into tiniest of details and cross-checks everything so things don’t go awry. An overly perfectionist, on the other hand, suffers from insecurity induced anxiety and is unable to take a firm stand because of his habit of nitpicking.

Hitesh Shah, the co-founder of KISSmetrics described how he unknowingly sabotaged his initial startup venture, in which he invested $1 million. In his own words, “We were perfectionist so we built the best thing we could without even understanding what our customers cared about.”

Now this might sound like a no-brainer because customers want everything perfect, right? Not really. Most customers are ordinary people, who aren’t obsessed with perfection. Hitesh being overly perfectionist had no clue of their choice of products.

Overly perfectionists are self-absorbed and often detached from reality. They unnecessarily underestimate their own potential. The danger of this is like Hitesh, they spend big chunks of fortune on resources, which may not be required. This is how they waste money as well as time.

Not Investing in Non-profit

Budding entrepreneurs are so focused at making profit that they exclude non-profit entirely from their marketing stratagem. By doing so, they limit their visibility. Investing in non-profit can be a great way for a startup to increase its reach among customers.

Successful entrepreneurs often invest in non-profit. Gurbaksh Chahal is one of them. He founded a number of startups including RadiumOne, ClickAgents, BlueLithium and Gravity4. Despite being a profiteer, Gurbaksh involved himself in charity and social works via his own nonprofit organizations.

He is the founder of The Chahal Foundation, a nonprofit entity established in July 2014. Before that, he founded another nonprofit called BeProud. Empowering women, mentoring promising entrepreneurs, ending child labor are among The Chahal Foundation’s key agenda.

Fractured Atlas is a nonprofit organization that operates from NYC. Its founder Adam Huttler has his own angel investment firm. Fractured Atlas solves problems for organizations and individuals in visual and performing arts segment. According to Mr. Huttler, nonprofit organizations can be small, but are more flexible than large-scale, profit-driven enterprises. Besides, they find it easy to approach people.

People like Gurbaksh Chahal and Adam Huttler are not exceptions. There are plenty other social entrepreneurs, who have a vision that’s not stuck with making profit.

Not Practicing Interaction and Social Listening

The humane era in branding has changed the definition of entrepreneurial success. A successful entrepreneur is not someone who earns tons of money. He’s someone with enough social capital. Social capital is not tangible. It’s produced by one’s extended network on social media that gives him a unique command in his domain.

This is why, steady interaction with people on social media is important for budding entrepreneurs. Social listening makes interaction meaningful. Via social listening, brands can monitor industry conversations. Tips for social listening are very easy to follow. Social listening becomes effective and value-driven when automation is thrown into the mix. ORM tools are used for listening conversation on social media.

Cutting-edge software solutions, developed solely for social listening possess features that traditional ORM tools lack. Here’s a comprehensive list of new age social monitoring tools. These tools can deliver entrepreneurs an edge in the competition and make their social journey worthwhile. Young entrepreneurs, eager to build a base are strongly recommended to use these tools.

Not Quantifying Progress

This is a very common mistake. Plenty of young entrepreneurs are guilty of committing as well as repeating this mistake. Two chief reasons they fail to quantify progress are:

  • They don’t use progress tracking methods and tools.
  • They invest in long-term and big-budget projects.

DFD (Data Flow Diagram), Gantt chart and project management templates are cost-effective ways to quantify project progress. Creating a baseline goal for a project is a must. Using team planner is necessary if a large team handles the project. Documentation of intra-team communication is key to quantifying the progress.

Big-budget projects may be profitable, but such projects often lack agility and their life-cycles are overly long. Rand Fishkin, the CEO of Moz described how his team was unable to see visibility of progress when they undertook a project in the fourth quarter of 2011. They project was initially scheduled to roll out in July 2012, but instead rolled out more than a year later.

Hence, creating agile development environment within the enterprise is essential, in order to accurately quantify progress of projects.

Not Learning to Unlearn

Adaptability is a precursor to being successful as an entrepreneur. If you are eyeing at entrepreneurial success, be adaptable. If adaptability is a coin, its two sides are learning and unlearning. Budding entrepreneurs prioritize the former, but ignore the latter. That’s a grave mistake.

Let me elucidate this with an example:

Imagine your business is not open to BYOD and your enterprise policies were formulated accordingly. If you introduce IoT for better enterprise connectivity, you have to change those policies because IoT presents users with more device options. When you change the existing policies, you unlearn several existing policy requirements.

I know from first hand experience that several work hours are spent and several enterprise resources are invested for better employee learning. In my honest opinion, organizations should ease up on learning and create opportunities for unlearning. This will make them more adaptive and more agile.

Conclusion

The five tips discussed here won’t bring overnight success, make no mistake about it. However, if young, Internet-savvy entrepreneurs follow these tips diligently, they’ll surely get the taste of success one day.

Double Facepalm Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Internet Entrepreneur Smackdown: These 5 Mistakes Could Hurt Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Plunging Smartphone Bills Are Good News for Small Business Owners in Two Ways

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 15:30

U.S. cellular service costs are plunging. The consumer-price index for wireless phone service dropped 12.5 percent between May 2017 and May 2016, according to the Labor Department. That’s a pretty significant drop that could have an impact on consumers and businesses alike.

What’s Behind the Plunging Smartphone Bills?

Many in the industry attribute the plunging smartphone bills to market saturation. Now that the major wireless carriers have scooped up just about all the potential mobile customers in the U.S., they’re turning to price wars to compete with one another.

“There are ebbs and flows for sure, but I think that the past year has been the most aggressive time in wireless history,” said Jeffrey Moore, head of Wave7 Research, which tracks wireless competition, according to a report from Fox Business.

Shopping around for a new #cellphone plan? Better #FinanceFridays ahead with lower rates, more features? https://t.co/gQSXQOE7fE

— KRS CPAs LLC (@KRSCPAS) June 23, 2017

PSA: Call your carrier ASAP and ask for a discount https://t.co/DWrlkOL9uk

— Ryan Knutson (@Ryan_Knutson) June 23, 2017

So what does this mean for businesses? Well, businesses that use mobile phones for team collaboration, communicating with client and even remote work can benefit from more manageable cell phone bills.

But it could also potentially lead to more opportunities to target mobile customers. If people have to worry less about data rates and overage costs, they could be more likely to visit mobile commerce stores, find local vendors and otherwise interact with your business on their phones and other mobile devices.

The cellular service industry is constantly changing. So businesses shouldn’t necessarily count on these changes sticking forever. But for now, they certainly present plenty of potential benefits for businesses.

Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Plunging Smartphone Bills Are Good News for Small Business Owners in Two Ways" was first published on Small Business Trends

Overcoming the Tragedy of Small Business: Getting Back to Basics

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 13:30

As a small business owner, it can sometimes feel like you’re on the journey of never-ending challenges. There’s no time to focus on your business because you do everything from cleaning bathrooms to product distribution. You get overwhelmed with technology and all the things that are supposedly here to grow your business. Not to mention the stress you feel from outside factors like political unrest, and family conflict because you’re late to yet another soccer game.

The tragedy of small business isn’t that too many fail or struggle. The tragedy is that they fail because they neglect to do something that’s simple. They’re dropping the ball and forgetting to follow up with their leads because they’re distracted. Distractions consume entrepreneurs and they can’t be successful with both a business and a life. Fortunately, there is a simple way to overcome that – and it’s all about getting back to the basics.

Why Entrepreneurs Don’t Follow Up

Can you identify the state of distraction that you live in as an entrepreneur? If you’re like most small businesses, you’re so distracted that it makes it difficult to close sales. You can’t see the goal, you lose focus on your customers, and forget the purpose of your business.

Distractions are easy. Saying yes to any opportunity because you need to make payroll always seems like a win. Unfortunately, what happens is the project occupies time and space in your mind, leaving little left to focus on your business or your family. This cycle continues to repeat itself until you end up with a business that’s so disjointed neither you nor your customers know what you’re about.

Cutting through the distraction will help you find what works in your business and what matters in your life. The good news is that the basics haven’t changed.

The Basics Always Work

Intentional focus causes distractions to fade into the background. The job of focus is to help you get clear on what’s needed to move forward. It helps prevent you from going in many directions and allowing the chaos that’s everywhere to hinder your progress.

To begin, start by getting your business organized and centralized. Fewer systems are better, but one system would be ideal. Then, start to automate tasks that are repetitive or often forgotten, like sales follow-up.

The Importance of the Sales Follow-Up

Follow-up is what separates successful businesses from those who fail. Research shows that 80 percent of sales close between the fifth and twelfth contact. Unfortunately, 44 percent of businesses give up after one follow-up attempt. If you don’t follow up with your customers beyond the first few emails, you’re missing the bulk of your sales.

The timing of a sales follow-up is also important because people buy when they’re ready, not when you are. In fact, you are nine times more likely to convert a lead if you follow up within the first five minutes. But, you must have something valuable to share.

How the Best Entrepreneurs Follow-Up

People buy from those they know, like and trust, so the information you deliver must be valuable enough to engage with. There aren’t any magic formulas when it comes to leading with value. However, the most successful businesses have these three follow-up email campaigns:

  • Lead Generation: A lead generation campaign includes valuable information you offer to someone who’s interested in what you have to sell. It includes a lead magnet, that could be a report, tip sheet, e-book, or video, along with a series of follow-up emails.
  • Welcome: A welcome campaign ensures that you’re ushering your customers in with a great experience. It could include orientation information, log-in credentials, or bonuses they didn’t anticipate.
  • Long-term Nurture: The long-term nurture campaign is regular communication with your customers and prospects. Sometimes this includes news, updates, events, or specials. Contact should be made at least monthly.
Don’t Be Forgotten

A few years ago I tried to remodel my backyard. I needed a landscaper and play equipment to the tune of thousands of dollars. I met with a few contractors and then I got busy. The project didn’t get done because the contractors didn’t follow up with me. They dropped the ball.

The only reason why we ended up with a swing set is that my kids are really good at follow-up. But, the landscape quotes are nowhere to be found. If one of the landscapers would’ve followed up, my backyard would look a whole lot different today.

Having a business is tough. You’re living in a state of distraction, which makes it challenging to achieve your goals. Eliminating distractions and getting back to basics is the key to ensuring that you don’t succumb to the tragedy of small business.

Signing Paper Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Overcoming the Tragedy of Small Business: Getting Back to Basics" was first published on Small Business Trends

Half of All Small Businesses Fail by Year 5 – Here’s Why (INFOGRAPHIC)

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 12:00

Every business owner wants to succeed. But achieving success doesn’t come easy to most entrepreneurs.

Fifty percent of small businesses, in fact, fail in their fifth year. This shocking revelation comes from new data presented by online insurance service provider, InsuranceQuotes.

Why Do Small Businesses Fail?

But what causes these businesses to fail? The InsuranceQuotes report offers some interesting insights.

Statistics reveal majority of small businesses (82 percent) fail because they experience cash flow problems. Other factors contributing to their failure include no market need for products or services (42 percent) and running out of cash (29 percent).

Why Businesses Must Invest in the Right Idea

Businesses cannot succeed unless there’s demand for their offerings in the market. That’s why, it’s essential for you to invest in the right idea and flesh it out properly.

Data shows healthcare and social assistance (1st year: 85 percent, 5th year: 60 percent) has the best survival rate. Transportation and warehousing (1st year: 75 percent, 5th year: 30 percent), on the other hand, has the worst survival rate.

Test Waters Before Taking the Leap

Think you have found your winning idea? Give it a test run before going out in the market.

A minimum viable product (MVP) can help you gauge audience response to your product before it’s launched. You may post a video demo of how the product will work or showcase it on your website.

With an MVP, you can minimize risks and make necessary tweaks to your solution before offering it to your target audience.

It’s further important for you to communicate with your audience to engage them. You may create an online community to obtain useful insights. Engaged customers tend to be more loyal customers. It’s therefore a good idea to use online platforms to connect more closely with your target audience.

To know more, check out the infographic below:

Image: InsuranceQuotes/NowSourcing

This article, "Half of All Small Businesses Fail by Year 5 – Here’s Why (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Free eBook to Drive Summer Marketing for Local Businesses

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 10:30
Sponsored Post

There’s no denying it: Summer is here.

To kick off the season, folks are uncovering their grills for the first time in eight or nine months and firing up some ‘shrimp on the barbie.’ A little corn on the cob, freshly-sliced watermelon and homemade cherry cobbler round out the all-American picnics taking place in backyards across the country.

School’s out, which means that little ones are full of energy. They’re eager to spend the next few months riding bikes with neighborhood friends and chasing lightening bugs at night. Day after day, they’re begging and pleading to head to the pool — after all, it’s hot outside.

And vacations are in full swing. Families are packing their SUVs and driving to beach houses and inns in coastal towns, pitching tents in national parks and spending quality time with cousins and grandparents who live states away.

Digital and Mobile Usage Behaviors Undergo a Sea of Change in Summertime

The change in season also means a drastic change in consumer behavior. With temperatures on the rise, so is consumer spending.

Research shows that people are online and on their devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) more during the warmer months of the year.

And the data is compelling:

  • Mobile usage grows 86 percent faster
  • With 77-degree temperatures, online shopping increases 49 percent
  • Facebook users share photos in summer 24 percent more than spring, 23 percent more than winter and 5 percent more than fall
  • Content posted on Facebook mobile grows by 26 percent and video posts grow by 43 percent
  • 34 percent of people say they watch more on their smartphones (with cooking videos topping the list)

But that’s not all: Not surprisingly, people are more active (and not just athletically) throughout the summer:

  • 48 percent dine out more
  • 50 percent of homes are sold
  • 80 percent of Americans plan a summer vacation, with an average spend of $941 per person
  • Emergency room visits increase 15–27 percent
Seizing the Season of Sun, Sand and Sales

This information is intriguing — and important — for local businesses, whether a string of fast casual restaurants, a bed and breakfast, a daycare and boarding facility for four-legged friends or an auto-repair shop that specializes in German cars.

With summer upon us, now is the time to ramp up marketing campaigns and get in front of the flurry of potential customers out and about for the season.

A free eBook is available to help businesses enhance their digital presence based on seasonal trends.

Developed by Vivial, a marketing technology company that offers customer engagement tools to help small and medium-sized businesses grow, the guide was specifically designed to support local business efforts to rank the highest, trend the hottest and make the biggest splash this season.

Organized into four sections — Summer Stats, Search & Maps, Social Media and Creative Inspiration — the user-friendly and visually-driven online format:

  • Delivers compelling statistics that build the case for stepping up customer engagement and outreach over the next few months
  • Provides practical tips for getting started with Google ads and boosting searchability through paid listings, Google Maps and organic search
  • Offers steps for developing social media profiles
  • Serves up ideas for posts, from popular hashtags to trending topics and themes
  • Includes complimentary resources that are downloadable at the click of a button
Simplifying the Complex for Local Business Marketing

Because improving online search rankings may seem intimidating, the eBook offers “3 Things You Can Do Right Now” to fine-tune marketing campaigns and help businesses appear higher on Google search.

Noting the hefty jump in social media usage when it’s warm, a dedicated section equips local business owners with the know-how to leverage profiles on key networks that reach their target customer — and make the most sense for that particular industry. This includes specific guidelines for launching pages that generate activity on Facebook, Google +, Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, including:

  • Creating a profile
  • Writing a full bio
  • Including photos
  • Taking clear action
  • Being social on social
  • Encouraging reviews
  • Paying to boost a profile
  • Analyzing to improve

And to prevent those creative juices from drying up, a Social Media Summer Cheat Sheet is chock full of suggestions for posts that better share a company’s message and tell its story.

Heating Up Marketing – and Keeping It Hot All Season

From Memorial Day to the Fourth of July to Labor Day and beyond, summer is bursting with unique opportunities to reach customers, connect with them and keep local businesses top of mind.

Thanks to Mother Nature and the “temperature-premium” effect, researchers say that warmer temperatures cause people to feel emotionally warm, which makes them feel better about prospective purchases.

It’s time to get started with summertime marketing because cool things should happen when the weather heats up.

Access Vivial’s free eBook at https://vivial.net/what-your-business-needs-this-summer

To learn more about how we take the complexity out of digital marketing to help SMBs translate likes and shares to dollars and cents, visit www.vivial.net.

Image: Vivial

This article, "Free eBook to Drive Summer Marketing for Local Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

New Fiverr Pro Service Offers Handpicked Freelancers for Small Business (INFOGRAPHIC)

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 09:30

Hiring professional freelancers for your next project just got easier.

Israel-based freelance marketplace Fiverr has announced Fiverr Pro, “the newest high-end initiative of Fiverr’s global marketplace for talent,” the company says.

Fiverr Pro services are available for prospective clients and freelancers in four categories: writing and translation, graphics and design, digital marketing and video and animation.

As part of the announcement, Fiverr also revealed it had acquired Veed.me, a marketplace specifically for hiring video and animation professionals.

Need for Professional Freelancers is Growing

An increasing number of small businesses are hiring freelancers for a wide range of tasks. According to Fiverr’s Fueling Entrepreneurship Report (see also below), 65 percent of entrepreneurs have tapped freelance talent in the last year. Of those, 80 percent view freelancers as important or very important to the success of their business.

But finding the right talent hasn’t been easy.

Nearly half of all entrepreneurs (48 percent) cited finding talent as their biggest freelancing challenge. Hiring professional freelancers has also turned out to be a costly affair. Fiverr’s research reveals growing businesses spend an average of $1,500 just to find, vet and hire the expertise their businesses need.

Fiverr Pro Addresses Your Freelancing Needs

To help you find the best freelancers for your business, Fiverr has sought out high-end professionals already providing services on its rapidly growing marketplace.

The company has also attracted professional freelancers with strong portfolios to build its new service, including those who have worked with Vodafone, Google and Sony.

“As our marketplace has evolved, we’ve recognized the growing demand from entrepreneurs for bigger and more complex projects that sometimes need highly professional freelancers with years of experience,” said Micha Kaufman, Fiverr CEO in a company release today. “Through Fiverr Pro, we’re bringing professional freelancers an easy way to get work, while adding the high end, trusted talent entrepreneurs are struggling to tap into.”

An Intensive Process to Select Quality Freelancers

What differentiates Fiverr Pro from other freelance services on offer is what the company claims will be a rigorous hand vetting to maintain a high level of quality.

For professional freelancers, the new feature should drive customer demand for their services. It also offers management tools designed to take care of all administrative tasks so freelancers can focus more on work.

Image: Fiverr

This article, "New Fiverr Pro Service Offers Handpicked Freelancers for Small Business (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Could Robots Make Small Business Manufacturing a Reality?

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 08:30

Manufacturing offers opportunities often less known to small business owners. This is because these opportunities aren’t always viable for small businesses with limited resources. That could all be changing though, thanks to some high tech innovations.

This Company is Leveraging Small Business Manufacturing Robots

Voodoo Manufacturing is a startup that uses 3D printing and robots to manufacture products of almost any imaginable design for clients. And the company plans on filling its entire factory floor with robots to hold the positions once have been held by human employees.

People often debate the ethics of giving away jobs to robots — but automation is a popular topic in small business circles. For small businesses that don’t have the resources to staff an entire factory, this technology could offer increasing opportunities in the future.

Voodoo Manufacturing, for one, says it plans to cut costs by about 90 percent over the next five years. And robots are a big part of that. As the costs for robots and other automation technology goes down, manufacturing could become more of a viable business opportunity for businesses even with limited resources.

So it’s worth monitoring for businesses that outsource manufacturing or entrepreneurs who have been reluctant to get into the manufacturing business due to cost concerns. Voodoo Manufacturing is just one example. But there will be plenty of new innovations making an impact on this industry in the coming years.

Image: Voodoo Manufacturing

This article, "Could Robots Make Small Business Manufacturing a Reality?" was first published on Small Business Trends

When is a GIF Reaction Appropriate in Business Chat?

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 07:30

As part of Skype’s redesign earlier this month, an integration with Gyfcat now makes it easy for users to share quick GIFs within chats.

GIFs have been included in plenty of silly social media posts. But they haven’t exactly been known for having tons of practical business applications. This integration, however, will make it easier for business owners and professionals to share GIFs within business chats. So how do you know when it’s appropriate to do so?

When to Use GIF Reactions in Business

Richard Rabbat, CEO and founder of Gyfcat, recently shared some thoughts on the subject in an email interview with Small Business Trends. Here are some insights to help you determine whether or not your next business chat could use a good GIF to lighten the mood.

In Less Formal Business Communications

Several years ago, the thought of using GIFs in business communications may have seemed completely ridiculous. But times are changing. There are now plenty of business communication platforms, including Skype and Slack, that have created less formal environments for teams to send updates and messages to colleagues.

Because of that, short and seemingly silly content like GIFs have become more acceptable in certain environments. That doesn’t mean you should use them in ALL of your business dealings. But you don’t need to discount them altogether either.

Rabbat explains, “With the advent of platforms like Slack, which aim to make business communication informal and fun, there’s been increased adoption of GIFs in work communication.”

Within Your Team as Opposed to with a Brand New Client

Of course, the choice of whether or not to use GIFs can also depend on who you’re communicating with. For instance, if you’re speaking with a brand new client who seems to be pretty old school, including a silly GIF in a message might not be the best fit. But if you’re talking to team members who you’re fairly comfortable with, it’s a different story.

Rabbat says, “I’d say in internal communications, unless your company is extremely formal, GIFs are probably appropriate. Externally, it depends on who you’re communicating with.”

It’s All About Tone

The bottom line is, the decision of whether or not to use GIFs in your business communication will depend mainly on the tone of your message. No matter who you’re communicating with, you probably don’t want to include a GIF if you’re sending an angry note or a somber reminder. But if you’re sending a fun message, GIFs can help you more clearly convey that light-hearted tone.

Rabbat says, “Any time you’re trying to send a fun or light-hearted message, GIFs may be used.”

So the next time you’re considering including a GIF in a business setting, just consider the who, what and where of your message. If the person seems open to this type of communication, you’re sending a light-hearted message and you’re using an informal platform, GIFs just might be a great fit.

Business Chat Online Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "When is a GIF Reaction Appropriate in Business Chat?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Want to Give Your Employees a Simple Perk? Try a Summer Fridays Policy

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 06:30

Are you looking for an easy way to make your employees happy? Consider starting a “summer Friday” policy. More than four in 10 companies are doing so this summer, according to a survey by CEB — a 20 percent increase from 2015. The study defined “summer Friday” as any policy that gives employees all or part of Friday off so they can get an early start on the weekend.

Should you do summer Friday at your business? The CEB survey polled Fortune 1000 companies — for small businesses with fewer employees, it may be a bit more difficult to institute such a policy. However, CEB noted, the increase in summer Friday policies between 2015 and 2017 was seen across all industries. With the job market currently favoring employees more than employers, summer Fridays can be a smart move for small businesses that are struggling to compete with larger ones for qualified employees. After all, you probably can’t match Google or Microsoft when it comes to employee perks like in-house cafeterias or on-site childcare — but you can offer summer Fridays.

Offering Summer Fridays Know Your Options

Summer Fridays can take many forms, so there’s something to suit every small business. You can be super generous and let employees leave the office at noon every Friday of summer. At the other end of the scale, you could give them Friday afternoons off only before a holiday weekend. (This year, you could be extra kind by giving employees Monday, July 3, off, too.)

Of course, these aren’t your only options. Assess your businesses’ needs, your employees’ schedules and your staffing levels to figure out a summer Friday system that works for you. For example, you could give employees a half Friday off every other week, a full Friday off every other week, or let them leave just a little bit early on Fridays (say, 3 PM) to get a head start on the weekend and beat some of the commuter traffic getting home.

If you’d like to offer your team summer Fridays but just can’t afford to lose the work hours, talk to your staff about implementing a four on/one off workweek for the summer months. Employees could work 10 hours a day Monday through Thursday, and then have every Friday off. (Check overtime rules in your state, first.)

Have a Blast from the Past

Summer Fridays used to be a common tradition at many workplaces decades ago, but became increasingly scarce during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s and the economic downturns that followed. After all, who needs to take Friday afternoons off when the office is stocked with foosball tables and free beer? And who feels confident enough to take Friday afternoons off when all around them, people are losing their jobs?

One reason for the recent rise in summer Fridays, according to the CEB report: With work-life boundaries increasingly blurred, just because employees are out of the office on Friday afternoons doesn’t mean they’re out of reach. When your team is just a text away, you can feel more confident giving them some R&R. And because your summer Friday policy helps them get the most from their summer, your employees are more likely to be motivated and responsive if you do need to call on them after hours.

Employee Outdoors Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Want to Give Your Employees a Simple Perk? Try a Summer Fridays Policy" was first published on Small Business Trends

Smarter Than Siri? Google Assistant Coming to iPhone

Small Business Trends - Tue, 2017-06-27 05:00

Smart “assistants” have been hugely instrumental in changing user behavior when it comes to search and online browsing. In many ways, the introduction of assistants, such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa, are what facilitated the rapid explosion of voice search.

As we’ve discussed before here, the majority of teens and adults use voice search on a daily basis, and Google has reported that 20% of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches. Again, this is in large part thanks to the development of digital assistants. As a result, it’s opened up a whole new area of competition and opportunity for brands and businesses, and Google is about to have skin in that game.

At Google’s recent developer conference in California, announcements were made that addressed the widespread use of artificial intelligence and the expansion of the Google Assistant to a broader range of devices. Here’s what’s new.

What’s New in the Google Assistant Update?

The Google Assistant is about to get a whole lot more powerful. Since the roll out of Google Home a little more than a year ago they’ve expanded the features and capabilities of the Google Assistant to further pull people away from Apple’s assistant, Siri.

Per a Forbes report, the new features include:

  • The Google Assistant will accept keyboard input and Voice input on phones.
  • The Google Assistant will have Google Lens camera input that can identify objects and let you ask questions about them.
  • Google Actions — the thing that lets the Assistant interact with third-party services like Alexa skills — are going to be available on phones.
  • You can call any phone number for free in the US and Canada with Google Home.
  • There are seventy different smart home manufacturers that will work with Google Home, with an open developer platform to add more.
  • Google Home can add calendar events and reminders and other proactivity, and will pulse a light when a reminder is waiting for you.
  • Spotify’s free service is coming to Google Home along with Deezer and SoundCloud.
  • Third-party hardware makers will be announcing new versions of a Google Home-like device.
  • You can also tell Google Home to watch HBO or Hulu on Chromecast on your preferred screen.
  • Google Home will be able to send visual search results to the Chromecast or other screens when appropriate, e.g.: see your calendar for the day.
  • You can now set reminders and calendar events on Home.
  • Google Home is coming to more countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan.
  • Google Assistant will work in more languages: Brazilian, Portuguese, French, German, and Japanese. Later this year Google will add Italian, Korean, and Spanish.

In light of these new features and evolving developments to the Google Assistant, you can expect a continued commitment to accuracy and efficiency. The artificial intelligence technology that Google continues to implement into different products and services will likely open up new areas of competition and opportunity for users and businesses alike. In the meantime, it would be wise to keep an eye on these developments as they are likely to advance and change quickly.

iPhone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Smarter Than Siri? Google Assistant Coming to iPhone" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Essential Reads for Leaders in a Disruptive Future

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-06-25 18:00

Leadership is one of the most rewarding and most difficult aspects of business. When done right, it seems effortless. When done wrong, it can damage everything. Leadership, like everything else in your business, requires maintenance to be effective. Leaders need to evolve with their business and its current and future needs so a business can continue to run smoothly.

As the world becomes more complex and more unpredictable, it’s essential for leaders to prepare now. The 10 books in this list are designed to help current and aspiring leaders do just that. Each book is designed to push some aspect of leadership out of the “comfort zone” and into a more confident level of leadership as we head into a complex and unpredictable future.

10 Essential Reads on Disruptive Leadership Why Simple Wins by Lisa Bodell

Complexity is a fact of life for modern businesses, yet dealing with this complexity is something that many businesses don’t know how to handle well. Many businesses, in fact, end up in a financially and time-draining place known as the”complexity trap”.

Why Simple Wins: Escape the Complexity Trap and Get to Work That Matters, by innovation expert Lisa Bodell, demonstrates why simplicity is the answer for breaking out of the “complexity trap”.

While many business leaders recognize they are stuck in mundane tasks and routines, few connect the dots between this inefficiency and an inability to innovate.

Why Simple Wins makes the connection and helps busy professionals find ways to prune productivity-wasters out of their schedules.

Bodell also emphasizes another key point. Simplicity is not a one-time action, it has to be a mindset.

Otherwise, the very gains from “cleaning up our to-do list” will come back to haunt us when we least expect it.

Inclusion by Jennifer Brown

Diversity is more than a workshop or a poster that you put on the wall of your HR department. It is necessary for your business to survive in the coming world of work to maintain its competitive advantage.

This is the point that Jennifer Brown urges readers to understand in her book Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change.

Brown’s book seeks to help readers gain a deeper understanding of what diversity is and leverage that understanding to build a more inclusive (and profitable) environment.

As Brown points out, management has often seen “diversity” as something “to do” rather than something that should be integrated into the entire fabric of a business.

Many organizations, however, are afraid or unsure of how to transition to and leverage a truly inclusive workforce. Inclusion shows business owners the steps they can take now to reach a more inclusive and profitable future later.

Primary Greatness by Steven Covey

What makes a person successful? In the late Stephen R Covey’s latest book, Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success, the answer lies inside of you.

To be more specific, it’s your primary greatness, a concept that is explored in the book collected from the vast collection of unpublished writing that Covey left with his unexpected passing.

The title comes from a message Covey passed on to his son about achieving success.

Covey contrasts two type of success in the book, primary and secondary greatness. Primary greatness is achievement which improve one’s internal self. Secondary greatness is achievement gained to improve one’s external self (like a trophy, Facebook Like, or paycheck).

He argues that primary greatness is, ultimately, a more reliable type of success than secondary greatness.

His book details why he believed so strongly in the concept of primary greatness and guides readers to their own primary greatness through the use of 12 core principles.

Worth Doing Wrong by Arnie Malham

Is building a work culture really worth the effort?

In Worth Doing Wrong: The Quest to Build a Culture That Rocks, the answer is a resounding yes. Work culture, like other areas involving the so-called “soft skills”, is something that many business leaders are now starting to pay attention to.

With this renewed interest, business owners are becoming more proactive about their role (and the role of others) in the company culture.

Culture, however, according to Malham is more important than feel-good talks and casual Fridays. It’s even more crucial than the execution or even the business idea itself. Why? Culture is the way that your business implements a strategy.

Culture is the environment where your ideas are born and developed. It is the internal and external distinction that separates companies from each other.

For those who believe in the power of workplace culture and want to leverage it to create a powerful business, Worth Doing Wrong offers a pathway through the fundamentals of doing just that.

The Essence of Lean by David Hinds Ph.D.

Because of its manufacturing roots, most professionals associate the principles of Lean with businesses — like an automotive company, motivated to get as much value out of their equipment as possible.

In The Essence of Lean: A Superior System of Management, however, that Lean can be applied to work environments that don’t involve a factory at all.

The Essence of Lean extracts the key principles of Lean management so readers can apply them to their small business, non-profits and governmental organizations.

Written especially for the non-manufacturing person who may not be familiar with the Lean process, The Essence of Lean, does more than just explain the principles of Lean to a new audience.

The book walks readers through creating a specific plan of action for integrating Lean in ways that decrease errors and increase efficiency. Businesses can improve overall ability to create more value for themselves, their customers, and their employees, with the expertise of a Lean master — and without having to worry about technical jargon.

The Asymmetrical Leader by Steve Knox

Leadership training often automatically assumes that leading is a game of mental balance. All you need to do is believe in and practice “x principle” to become a great leader.

The Asymmetrical Leader, written by business coach and author Steve Knox, challenges that assumption.

Leaders, Knox argues, need to be comfortable stepping out of their own heads and engaging with their hearts.

By leading with their minds and hearts, leaders can connect with their teams on a deeper and more authentic level. Leadership is a more dynamic process that embraces weaknesses as part of the leadership challenge rather than hiding from them.

In an effort to help entrepreneurs excel in this multi-dimensional form of leadership, The Asymmetrical Leader highlights five core competencies and helps readers leverage the potential power within those competencies.

Many of those core competencies, like communication, are practiced by leaders every day but Steve Knox demonstrates how these simple competencies can be transformed into a powerful legacy of leadership.

Speed by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

Business leaders know that speed is a competitive asset. Maintaining speed while also maintaining quality is another issue altogether.

Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution helps leaders balance the need for quality and speed within their businesses so they can thrive in the fast-paced world of the 21st-century business.

In Speed, readers assess their organization’s current efficiency and help leaders outline a level of efficiency.

Using the book’s principles, readers can take a comprehensive look at everything in their businesses that could serve as a “speed bump” and identify strategies and recommendations for navigating around them.

To achieve a higher level of efficiency without losing quality, you need support from leaders and the workers who will carry it out.

Speed provides support for both sides of the spectrum in eight companion behaviors extracted from research on high-performing businesses and individuals.

Using the book’s insights, business owners can tailor and scale their plans for maintaining their “business awesome” while doing business at an unmatched pace.

Before I Was CEO by Peter Vanham

Have you ever wondered what life was like for a high-profile CEO before the spotlight? You might hear a little of their story in their professional bio, but you may not get all of the tiny steps (or missteps) along the way.

In Before I Was CEO: Life Stories and Lessons from Leaders Before They Reached the Top, business journalist Peter Vanham shares in-depth interviews of twenty high-profile CEOs.

These CEOs come from a variety of industries ranging from brewing (Heineken) to non-profits (American Red Cross). They all, however, share the common trait of persistence and adaptation.

Vanham’s interviews focus on the path that these high-profile leaders took to get where they are. He groups these paths by themes including adversity, “breaking free” and “returning home” to reinforce the commonality and uniqueness of their path.

Following each collection of interviews, Before I Was CEO, extracts some memorable “wisdom nuggets” for readers to reflect on in their own path as current and future leaders.

Yoga for Leaders by Stefan Hyttfors

What does a busy leader preparing for an unpredictable future need? If you ask futurist and speaker Steffan Hyttfors, the answer is yoga.

This centuries-old philosophy, Hyttfors argues, offers a strategic mental framework for leading in a constantly changing future. His book Yoga For Leaders, however, doesn’t focus on standing on one leg or in a headstand pose. It focuses attention on a leader’s thoughts and actions.

Many leaders deal with the uncertainty of the future in two unproductive ways. They either plan excessively (to gain some sense of control) or they fail to plan. Both of these approaches are damaging to a business.

Yoga for Leaders argues that leaders need a more balanced approach.

To survive an unpredictable future, Hyttfors explains how leaders need awareness and agility. They need awareness of their current beliefs and mental agility to deal with events outside of their control. This balance of agility and awareness helps leaders stay centered on their purpose in a future that doesn’t come with a roadmap.

Mind+Machine by Marc Vollenweider

Analytics or Big Data, while extremely helpful, won’t save your business. As a leader, you need to turn that information into action and gain knowledge from that action to take smarter steps in the future.

The mission of Mind+Machine: A Decision Model for Optimizing and Implementing Analytics is to investigate and improve the connection between data businesses collect and the actions they take as a result.

Marc Vollenweider’s book begins with an examination of the misconceptions and trends in business data collection in all of its current forms (IoT, analytics, etc).

The book then delves into what Vollenweider calls the “mind+ machine approach”, which combines the best features of the human mind (insight and wisdom) with the best features of the machine (automation and data collection).

This approach, the book argues, will better help everyone involved in this tech-driven world, from regulators to everyday users, gain more value from the data they are creating and collecting every day.

The Future of Leadership: People Skills and Machine Agility

Businesses depend on good leadership to navigate their business safely through an unpredictable future. In a world where data is increasing at an alarmingly fast rate, it is up to leaders to identify and execute the right technology and talent for their business goals. This prioritization requires leaders adopt a new mindset when it comes to managing the people and technology they work with. While this will be uncharted territory for all leaders, those who do integrate the disruptive leadership lessons from the books in this list should have a competitive advantage over those who don’t.

Disruption Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Essential Reads for Leaders in a Disruptive Future" was first published on Small Business Trends

Sneaky Negotiation Tricks Are Your Worst Enemy: Here are 5 You Must Defeat

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-06-25 15:00

Negotiating is a skill every small business owner needs to master to be successful. If your confidence was rattled the last time you worked out the terms of a new deal, you’re not alone. You might have been the victim of sneaky negotiating tactics designed to undermine you.

Small Business Trends spoke with Simon Letchford, Managing Director, and Brian Buck, Negotiation Consultant, from Scotwork. Their business is teaching the art of negotiation. They shared five sneaky negotiation techniques you can spot in business and how to overcome them.

Sneaky Negotiation Tricks to Avoid Programmed Behavior

Letchford says everyone wants to stay in control of any negotiation. That means learning to recognize what he calls programmed behavior and not doing anything to foster it.

He uses the example of a child that throws a temper tantrum and gets a bag of candy from his parents to placate him . Adults unconsciously learn a series of behaviors they use to similar ends.

“So, staying in control means not rewarding the behaviors you want to see less of,” Letchford says.

Of course the trick is in being able to identify these behaviors — some are programmed and others are deliberate.

Passing the Buck

“We see this a lot where someone is passing their problem onto the other party,” Buck says. This is a ploy where one person blames the other for a businesses related issue and looks for compensation.

“Not all problems are real by the way,” Buck says. The trick is to understand this blame game is designed to get concessions and not feel guilty. Don’t offer a series a fixes when someone tells your prices hurt their client base. Instead, ask them right away what you can do to right the situation.

“That way you’re giving the responsibility for the solution back to the individual,” Buck says. Volleying it back this way helps to keep the negotiation geared to business issues and not emotional ones.    

Good Cop/Bad Cop

This might be a bit of a cliché from police shows, but it works on inexperienced negotiators according to Letchford. This is highly effective when only one of the players is in the room at a time, he said.

This often plays out where the good cop wants to meet your price or take advantage of your offer but needs to confer with the bad cop who may be the boss.

Resisting this sneaky technique goes beyond bucking up against it.

“It’s in your interest to get an early lead on who the decision makers are and what the approval process is,” Letchford says. He also adds it’s good to deal with the bad cop first.

Undermining Your Confidence

It’s the very nature of negotiating to try yo get something for less. The person across the table will look for the issues they feel they have the most leverage on. These could include price, quality or a variety of other factors.

“They’ll try and use that to extract the most value from you,” Buck says.

The trick to maintaining control is to turn the tables and discover your adversary’s priorities. If they focus on your price and you know time to market is important to them, you have a starting point to trade lower priority items for higher ones.

For example, you might be able to get more money for your widgets if your client wants them to arrive overnight. Buck explains the advantage here.

“It’s about giving the other party what they want with terms that are acceptable to you.”

If you’re well prepared this way, there’s usually a way to say yes to a deal.

Aggression

Any successful negotiation should be unemotional. One of the biggest sneaky tricks is using aggression. It’s an overarching theme that’s found in each of the others.

“It’s a bullying tactic that’s meant to keep the other party off balance,” Buck says. Staying, calm and being well prepared goes a long way. Recognizing these sneaky negotiating techniques for what they are is best accomplished with a cool head.

Negotiation Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Sneaky Negotiation Tricks Are Your Worst Enemy: Here are 5 You Must Defeat" was first published on Small Business Trends

Best 5 Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-06-25 12:00

The stereotypical entrepreneur thrives on personal interaction. They’re comfortable walking up to strangers and talking about their business, they have no fear giving presentations to large audiences, and they’re natural-born salespeople who can pitch their products at any time. But what about the introverts of the world, who draw energy from being alone, prefer working in solitude, and aren’t as naturally inclined to socialize with others?

Notable Introverted Entrepreneurs

If it seems like all successful entrepreneurs are extraverts, it may be a natural result of seeing how much attention they get. Extraverted entrepreneurs frequently talk to the media and go out of their way to socialize with more people, so of course you see them more than their introverted counterparts.

However, there are many examples of introverts who have become successful business owners. Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, is notoriously shy and introverted, yet is able to lead one of the biggest tech companies on the planet. Bill Gates, too, is open about overcoming the challenges of introversion on his path to becoming one of the richest men on the planet.

And it’s not just the tech world, either—consulting maverick Sam Ovens describes himself as an introvert, having overcome a fear of pitching his business to others at the start of his entrepreneurial journey.

Success Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs

So how are these introverts able to succeed so impressively? What strategies can you use to overcome the additional challenges of entrepreneurship? Consider these success tips for introverted entrepreneurs to start.

1. Realize that Preferences Don’t Dictate Behavior

Both introverts and extraverts can be exhausted from too much socializing; extraverts enjoy alone time, and introverts can be successful conversationalists. Just because you’re inclined toward one end of the spectrum or the other doesn’t mean that all of your habits and actions are predetermined. Your preferences don’t dictate your behavior, so your first hurdle to overcome is breaking out of the mindset that, because you’re an introvert, you won’t be able to talk to people (or enjoy it when you do). You can maintain your identity, yet still develop the skills you need to succeed.

2. Practice

If you’re not used to communicating with others, or being in the spotlight, that’s okay. Though some people are naturally predisposed to being stronger, more confident communicators, you’re more than capable of developing those skills on your own. Like any other skill, it’s going to take practice and commitment to develop. Start making small talk with strangers, and make an effort to keep conversations with new people going. Eventually, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable and more skilled at navigating conversations, and even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, you’ll be good enough at it to build your business.

3. Find a Strong Mentor

If you’re struggling to make contacts through conventional forms of socializing, like networking events, or if you aren’t sure where to start, find yourself a strong mentor. Entrepreneurs who have already found success will have a wide network of contacts you can borrow as you start to make your own progress. Most introverts also find it easier to communicate with people they get to know well over time, so as you spend more time with your mentor, you’ll have an easier time communicating and learning.

4. Find Partners Who Complement Your Strengths

You may be the visionary and the leader of your business, but that doesn’t mean building the business is squarely on your shoulders. If you aren’t a strong communicator, or if you don’t feel particularly skilled at making sales, hire people who are. Go out of your way to find partners who complement your skillset and natural attributes, so your business has access to the best of both worlds. Businesses need both introverts and extraverts to succeed, but they don’t need every individual to fully exhibit both sets of traits.

5. Build the Business You Want to Build

Finally, remember that as an entrepreneur, you’re the one setting the tone and creating the culture for your company. You can build the business you want to build. If you don’t want to rely on in-person networking and sales calls to pitch products, consider doing more inbound marketing. If you’d rather avoid the excessive spotlight of the media, create press releases that emphasize your products, rather than your leadership. There’s no single, correct way to build a successful enterprise.

If you follow these strategies, you’ll have no problem succeeding in business as an introvert—even if it seems like extraverts are the ones building the best businesses. The truth is, with enough determination and a genuine desire to succeed, anyone can become a successful business owner.

As an introvert, you’ll face a few extra challenges, but if entrepreneurship is what you truly want, those challenges won’t be able to stop you from achieving your goals.

Entrepreneur Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Best 5 Tips for Introverted Entrepreneurs" was first published on Small Business Trends

Why Entrepreneurs Need to Be Daring and Disruptive

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-06-25 09:00

Daring & Disruptive: Unleashing the Entrepreneur, by Lisa Messenger, is a mixture of several things. It is a memoir, a serial entrepreneur’s journey, an inspirational pep talk for aspiring entrepreneurs and an advice guide for the next generation of entrepreneurs who will face a disruptive and chaotic world. The key themes behind all of this are boldness and creativity, the two tools that Messenger believes will help every single entrepreneur conquer the obstacles they will inevitably face.

What is Daring & Disruptive About?

Messenger isn’t the kind of entrepreneur that you would expect to read about in a business textbook. As her book, Daring & Disruptive emphasizes, she doesn’t preach about creating a 50-page business plan, complicated financial valuations, or slick marketing schemes to reach customers.

In fact, Messenger regularly dives into new business ventures on gut instinct and a back-of-the-envelope business plan alone, fosters an environment where employees are able to bring their pets to work and launches into spontaneous acts of kindness whenever she comes across an opportunity.

This style of entrepreneurship, while nontraditional, may actually showcase what the future of entrepreneurship will be like as the next generation of entrepreneurs (Millennials and beyond) prepare for their own businesses. It has proven to be successful for Messenger, who launched a magazine that turned into a global online platform for distribution in over 30+ countries (without the need for outside investors), has written over 16 books, and started a publishing company that has assisted over 400 authors.

Messenger credits her successes with her life experiences which taught her about the core of entrepreneurship. At its core, entrepreneurship isn’t about designing fancy PowerPoint presentations for investors or creating an overly complicated business strategy. It’s about two things, being bold and being fearless. It’s about being open to opportunities to fill a customer’s needs and wants in your own way — rather than waiting for external validation. It’s about remaining in a continuous state of learning and experimentation so you can adapt your business as things change. This kind of entrepreneurship thrives from moving fast and furious since speed in a powerful asset in a competitive world. Those business owners who continue to develop, experiment and bring their ideas to market will have a greater chance of survival in the unpredictable future.

Messenger is a serial entrepreneur who currently serves as the CEO and creative director of the Messenger Group, a public relations agency, and is the founder and editor of Collective Hub, a global multimedia platform with distribution in more than 30 countries. Messenger, who describes herself as a child who never followed the traditional path, started out in the event marketing and sponsorship industry, eventually bootstrapping her own businesses to become a successful serial entrepreneur, speaker and mentor.

What Was Best About Daring & Disruptive?

The best part of Daring & Disruptive is the powerful feel-good message Messenger delivers throughout the book. Essentially, Messenger asserts that there is no plausible reason why an entrepreneur with a good idea can’t eventually succeed. She points to her own life as an example of a person who doesn’t follow the traditional rules when it comes to business. Yet, she argues that this tendency to steadfastly follow her own path and remain open to wherever it leads can serve as the perfect competitive strategy for entrepreneurs who don’t fit the traditional mold.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Daring & Disruptive is written for a particular type of entrepreneur, those who don’t fit the traditional mold. It focuses on providing inspiration and motivation for that kind of entrepreneur. It does not place extensive focus on testing your business idea, operating strategies or finances. This information isn’t crucial to the book’s message, but providing some resources in these areas (i.e. resources for setting up a landing page, etc.) might help beginning entrepreneurs who feel inspired by Messenger’s words and want to take the next step.

Why Read Daring & Disruptive?

It has been projected that a substantial number of Millennials possess entrepreneurial aspirations. If that happens to be the case for you (or someone you know), then Daring & Disruptive is the perfect motivational guide to get started. While the book is focused on helping entrepreneurs of any age break barriers, it resonates particularly well with Millennial entrepreneurs who may feel they don’t have what it takes to pursue their business dreams. Messenger, using her own life as an example, shows that the path to entrepreneurship isn’t set in stone. It is set in your heart and mind. Her book demonstrates how Messenger was able to use her heart and mind to create a business her way. In the process, she hopes to inspire others to do the same so they can achieve what they once thought impossible.

This article, "Why Entrepreneurs Need to Be Daring and Disruptive" was first published on Small Business Trends

Check Out These Upcoming Online Events for Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-06-24 13:30

This week’s calendar of events is absolute proof you don’t have to spend a lot of money or travel to far off destinations to get all the helpful small business advice you need.

There are plenty of upcoming business events that take place completely online, including a Twitter chat aimed at getting you inspired, a webinar to improve the speed of your team, an online conference aimed at sales professionals and even a digital marketing conference.

You can learn about all of these online events and more in the Featured Events section. And check out even more event opportunities for your small business 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

Twitter Chat: “Get Inspired in Your Business”
June 28, 2017, Online, Twitter

Are you ready for the Microsoft Inspire event? The company’s annual partner conference is only a couple weeks away! Join Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, and Small Business expert Gene Marks on June 28, 2017 at 3pm ET (12pm PT) under the hashtag #MSBizTips for a preview of what’s coming down the pipeline for small businesses from Microsoft, and discover what you can expect to learn from the conference.

WEBINAR: Give Your Team What it Needs for Speed
June 29, 2017, Online

The right technology tools and resources can help your team respond to—and stay ahead of—your competition and the market. Whether you have two employees or 100, you can always ramp up team speed. From improving processes and decision-making to boosting collaboration and providing your team with the technology and tools it needs, this webinar will explore the ways in which team speed can be leveraged as a critical competitive edge. Our panel of entrepreneurs and experts will engage in a lively, informed and interactive discussion about how you make your team more nimble and agile—and boost productivity and profits as a result. Our Panelists include Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, Gene Marks, owner and operator of the Marks Group, and Ramon Ray, Small Business Evangelist at Infusionsoft, publisher of Smart Hustle magazine, and Technology Evangelist at SmallBizTechnology.

Rule Breaker Awards 2017
June 30, 2017, Online

Entrepreneurs don’t play by the rules. Why should you be judged by them? The Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way. Some have created whole new industries; others have revolutionized industries that have existed for hundreds of years. Nominations end June 30, 2017. Nominate an entrepreneur today!

Rule Breaker Awards Ceremony
October 24, 2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.

On October 24, 2017 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way in a ceremony featuring the Rule Breaker of the Year and Rule Breaker Award winners.

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.

Online business events photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Check Out These Upcoming Online Events for Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Niche-Specific Tips for Everyone from Business Bloggers to Franchise Owners

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-06-24 12:00


There are no tips that work perfectly for every small business, because there are so many different types of small businesses with different customers and different needs. So it can help to find advice actually geared toward specific types of businesses.

Members of the online small business community have experience in many different industries and niches. So here are some tips for running everything from a blogging business to a restaurant franchise. Chances are you’ll find something that applies to your business too.

Don’t Make These Business Blogger Mistakes

Blogging has become a popular business opportunity for entrepreneurs in just about every niche. But there are a lot of mistakes that people can make when getting into this type of business. Ryan Biddulph explores some of the common mistakes made by travel bloggers — but they can really apply to just about any blog run as a business —   in a Basic Blog Tips post.

Move Customers Through the Sales Funnel

For sales based businesses, finding ways to move customers through those sales funnels regularly is key. The tips in this post by Rick Verbanas of Your Guerrilla Marketer can help your business move customers through sales funnels more efficiently so you can make more sales.

Make a Profitable YouTube Video Channel

In 2017, YouTube isn’t just a marketing tool. It can actually be its very own income stream. In this post, Philip Verghese Ariel shares some thoughts and an infographic with tips for creating profitable YouTube channels. You can also see commentary on the post over on BizSugar.

Learn Why Franchising is Great for Entrepreneurs

Franchising can make opening a business easier, especially for new entrepreneurs. And there are several other potential benefits to opening franchise businesses as well, as Ivan Widjaya of Noobpreneur goes over in this post.

Use This Checklist for Local SEO Success

Local businesses also have plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially with all the mobile marketing and SEO techniques that can help these businesses grow. Maddy Osman offers a checklist for local businesses to improve SEO in this Search Engine Journal post.

Start the Hiring Process for Your New Startup

If you have a brand new startup, there are so many factors that can contribute to your success. But your startup team can be one of the most important factors. Learn how to start the hiring process for your new startup in this Getentrepreneurial.com post by Pamela Swift.

Learn About Amazon’s New Prime Wardrobe

If your small business offers clothing and apparel on platforms like Amazon, a new program for Prime members that lets them try on certain items for free could be of interest. Read more about the program in this Marketing Land post by Amy Gesenhues.

Guide Leads With These Content Marketing Tactics

For sales oriented businesses, there are many tactics you can use to guide leads from consideration to decision. Content marketing can even be part of that mix, as Avinash Nair points out in this Right Mix Marketing post.

Build a Successful Social Media Marketing Plan

Social media can be a great marketing tool or even something you can build an entire business around. But you need a great plan in order to succeed. Here are some tips from Pierre de Braux of Social Media Examiner. And you can also see what BizSugar members have to say about the post here.

Track Remote Workers’ Productivity

These days, many different types of businesses can benefit from using the help of remote workers. But tracking their productivity can be a challenge. This Smallbiztechnology.com post by the Young Entrepreneur Council lists some tools you can use to keep track of productivity even when workers aren’t in your office.

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

Targeting your niche photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Niche-Specific Tips for Everyone from Business Bloggers to Franchise Owners" was first published on Small Business Trends

25 Perfectly Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-06-24 09:30

With the celebration of 30 years since the creation of GIFs , the iconic files that create mini animations show little sign of losing popularity. But are these sometimes hilarious files still so popular in social media posts and even business chats really appropriate for business communication? Funny you should ask!

According to Richard Rabbat, CEO and founder of Gyfcat, anything that is G-rated and light-hearted can be appropriate in some business instances. But there are some specific types of GIFs that can really apply to businesses in a lot of situations. Here are 25 acceptable GIF reactions for businesses to consider.

Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses Mood-Lightening GIFs

Rabbat says, “GIFs provide clarity of emotional intent that’s absent from text. It’s easy to misconstrue meaning over text. How many times have we thought someone was annoyed when they were trying to make a joke? GIFs remove that ambiguity.”

Jokes

For that reason, sharing joke GIFs with your team within business chats on Skype or similar platforms can be a great way to add levity — especially when tensions over a particular project are running high.

Laughter

Or if a member of your team or even a follower on social media shares something humorous, you can share a laughter GIF as a more creative version of “lol.”

Welcome Gestures

If you’re welcoming people to a business chat on a platform like Skype, you can share a simple welcome gesture by using a GIF of a person waving or even some welcoming text.

Goodbye Waves

Likewise, you can share a GIF at the end of an online chat to wave goodbye or wish your colleagues well.

Affirmations

You can also use GIFs that include encouraging messages or motions to tell team members or followers that they’re doing a great job.

Thank Yous

Or if you have a team member who really helped you out or a follower who shared a great story about your brand online, you can share a quick thank you message in GIF form.

Surprised Reactions

There are plenty of GIFs out there that portray surprised faces, perfect for those instances where someone shares a shocking story or statistic with you.

Clapping GIFs

Clapping is a great way to show someone that you approve of what they just did or said. So clapping GIFs can do the same online.

High Fives

Or maybe you just completed a project where everyone did a great job. So a high five GIF can convey your happiness with everyone’s efforts.

Group Hugs

Similarly, a group hug GIF can help you celebrate an accomplishment and build a stronger bond among your team members.

Dancing GIFs

Whether you’re communicating with team members or social media followers, dancing GIFs can help you share general happiness while adding a little silliness.

Celebratory Scenes

Other celebratory scenes like a leap in the air or arm pump can also be appropriate in any situation where you’re celebrating a big win.

Fail GIFs

On the other hand, you can also use GIFs to make light of situations where things didn’t go your way. Don’t use them to criticize your team! But if you made a silly mistake that you want to acknowledge, you could use a number of different fail GIFs to convey that.

Frustration GIFs

You can also use GIFs to express frustration. Again, this doesn’t apply for serious situations. But if, for example, you’re experiencing an extra long Monday, you can share a GIF of frustration with team members.

Funny Faces

Funny faces are appropriate in a number of different situations to lighten the mood or react to messages on social media.

Holiday Greetings

On holidays, you can also use GIFs to send out greetings and well wishes to specific team members or followers on social media.

Happy Weekend Messages

Similarly, you can celebrate the start of the weekend with a GIF post that includes a celebratory message.

Reminder Messages

Let’s say you have a big event coming up at your office. In a reminder message to your team, you can include an eye-catching GIF aimed at calling attention to that event so that everyone will be sure to remember it.

Text GIFs

A lot of GIFs also include text captions. So they can convey more specific sentiments to specific people. As long as the text is appropriate, these GIFs can help you communicate with people in your team or on social media.

Popular Characters

There are also plenty of GIFs that feature popular characters from TV or movies. So if you’re having a conversation with someone who you know loves a particular character, using a GIF of them could be a great option.

Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs are GIFs that usually feature fairly wide scenes but include just one moving part. Picture an image of a full auditorium but just one person is clapping or moving around. As long as the content is appropriate, these GIFs can let you share even more creative scenes.

Looping GIFs

There are also GIFs that basically loop around when they start over, so it looks like a never-ending movement.

Anything G-Rated

Basically, depending on the situation and the person or persons you’re communicating with, you can share just about anything that is G or PG-rated in GIF form.

Cute Animals

And finally, when in doubt, don’t forget about GIFs of cute animals.

Rabbat says, “Cute animals are appropriate in most situations. They’re crowd pleasing, G-rated and get tons of attention on social media.”

GIF Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "25 Perfectly Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Rewriting the Manual With The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-06-24 07:30

If you wanted to become an entrepreneur, chances are that 99 percent of the people would tell you that you need a business plan. They would tell you to study the market, estimate how much money you need, and how much in sales you need to cover your expenses. The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook: Useful Stuff For Your Enterprise Voyage would question that logic. This book argues that you don’t need some external requirement (like a degree or fancy 50 plus page business plan) to become an entrepreneur. You only need to take that first step on your entrepreneur’s voyage and then another one.

What is The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook About?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook begins with the premise that everyone can be an entrepreneur. History seems to bear this out if you think about. People from all walks of life have become entrepreneurs. If this is true, then why are prospective entrepreneurs constantly held back by those who insist on a  more formalized approach? Why do some supposed “experts” seem to believe only a certain type of person can be an entrepreneur?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook argues potential entrepreneurs hold themselves back from entrepreneurship because they (consciously or subconsciously) allow circumstances to opt them out of it. They might have an idea for a business but they don’t want to leave safety for the unknown. They might have been told only people who display certain traits (extroverts, for example) can run a successful business. They might believe they need a world-changing idea before they can become accepted as an entrepreneur. So they bury their entrepreneurial dreams and read about other success stories while quietly wishing they could experience the same success.

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook calls this approach just plain wrong.

Entrepreneurship isn’t about fancy PowerPoints or even suits. It’s a way of thinking. Entrepreneurs make stuff happen by implementing ideas that fulfill another person’s need, whether that is a haircut, BMW, or someone to watch the kids while a couple goes on date night.

Accepting this broader definition is the point of The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook. The book asserts that readers don’t need any external validation to be an entrepreneur. They only need an idea and a key set of characteristics (discussed in the book) to get started on their “enterprise voyage,” the author’s name for the rough-and-tumble ride of entrepreneurship.

Author Iain Scott, also known as Enterprise Iain, is a former teacher who left a career in education (despite constant reminders of his loss of security) to become an entrepreneur. Although he knew nothing about entrepreneurship, he utilized the techniques he discusses in his book. In his book, Scott describes how he found a calling to help others launch their entrepreneurial dreams (instead of managing his own business.) He is the founder of Can Do Places + Spaces, a website focused on entrepreneurship, and works as an author, podcaster and filmmaker with a long history covering entrepreneurial support programs.

What Was Best About The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook?

The best part of The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook is the redefinition of the concept of “entrepreneurship”. Most books, to this day, run under the assumption that you have to follow a set path to becoming an entrepreneur. Scott’s book shares why this is misleading and ultimately blocks prospective entrepreneurs into a cycle of “wantepreneurism”. Prospective entrepreneurs feel they don’t meet the requirements even though they are blocking their own paths with these beliefs. The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook dispels those ideas and provides readers with a more realistic overview of the entrepreneurial journey

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook can best be thought of as an inspirational guide to an entrepreneur’s first step. The book, however, lacks sufficient detail on the next steps an entrepreneur should take once they decide to move ahead with starting a business. As the book points out, there is no straightforward “check off the box” path to entrepreneurship. That being said, prospective entrepreneurs can learn a lot from following the previous steps of entrepreneurs. Adding more case studies (including more details about the author’s journey in his food specialty business) may help readers navigate their initial first months as an entrepreneur.

Why Read The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook should appeal most to prospective “wantrepreneurs” and new entrepreneurs in their first few months of business. While some more detail could be helpful, the book provides an excellent overview of entrepreneurship. It is a motivational and realistic guide to entrepreneurship outside the more formal approach and complicated business jargon (although some business terms are used.) And it shows how anyone can adopt the entrepreneurial spirit. If you are an entrepreneur who is waiting for the right moment, a new entrepreneur who is wondering if you are going in the right direction or just someone who wants to take more ownership of your life, The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook is a creative and inspirational boost that urges you to chase your dream now, rather than someday.

This article, "Rewriting the Manual With The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook" was first published on Small Business Trends

How the Best Businesses Are Preventing BrandSlaughter

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-06-23 17:32

This is a branding book that covers a unique topic, the death of a brand. Using a fictional case study, Reliance Hospital, the book shows why businesses must remain proactive about every important aspect of their brand or risk watching their brands die.

What is Preventing BrandSlaughter About?

Understanding the importance of proactively managing your brand is the core message of Preventing BrandSlaughter: How to Preserve, Support, and Grow Your Brand Asset Value. In this book, branding is more than a graphic you slap on a product to identify your business. Branding is the lifeblood of your organization. Without attention to the things that feed your brand (dedicated employees, high standards, focused leadership), your brand suffers and eventually dies. When a brand dies, the business is next to fall.

To illustrate his point, David Corbin provides a fictional case study of a hospital. The book follows two stories. The first is about new employees attending an orientation at the hospital. These new employees are introduced to the concept of Preventing BrandSlaughter along with the specific principles the hospital uses to prevent the death of its brand. The second story follows two doctors at the hospital who want to integrate new technology but encounter a clash of personalities.

As both stories in the case study emphasize, branding involves more than the marketing department. There are two major aspects of a successful brand, the external (how you define your business to the world) and internal (what your employees do to support your brand). The goal of a business is to be consistent with its external and internal branding. A brand that accomplishes this is said to have integrity.

Reaching brand integrity isn’t automatic. It requires regular auditing to identify and fix areas that need improvement. By doing this, brands reinforce a high-performing culture that continues to evolve. This high performance, in turn, keeps the brand growing. High-performing businesses that proactively grow their brand avoid the same fatal missteps of a business that takes its customers and branding for granted.

Author David Corbin, known as “Robin Williams with an MBA“, is a former psychotherapist and consultant who currently works as a keynote speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Corbin has worked with the top leaders at companies such as AT&T, Hallmark and Sprint. He was a host and the star of a movie called ”Pass It“ and was recently featured in another movie ”Three Feet From Gold“. Corbin was ranked as one of the top speakers at INC Magazines’ national conferences. He also received the International Enterprise of the Year award for designing a touchscreen patient interview system.

What Was Best About Preventing BrandSlaughter?

As described above, most branding advice focuses on how to launch a brand. This advice doesn’t focus on maintaining a brand over the long-term. Preventing BrandSlaughter fills that role and does so with ease. Utilizing a heart-warming case study, it reinforces the core simplicity of branding rather than getting obsessed with the technical details. This focus on branding fundamentals and high standards of excellence remains crucial in a world requiring businesses to balance growth and agility.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Preventing BrandSlaughter has a heart-warming story, an empowering message and a principles-based perspective that can be applied to any organization at any level. But the the book’s examples focus more on principles than specifics. For example, the book references a specific type of branding audit (called “Accreditation of Brand Integrity” or ABBY audits) but fails to give any detailed examples or guidance on how to create one.

Why Read Preventing BrandSlaughter?

Many business owners have relegated branding to the marketing department, but David Corbin’s book emphasizes why readers should not do this. Instead, Corbin asserts that branding is something everyone is continually engaged in. Every transaction, every communication, every touchpoint is an opportunity to build or destroy the brand. If a brand isn’t integrated into a business demanding accountability and excellence from its employees,  it runs the risk of bringing about its own death.

Because the concepts discussed in Preventing BrandSlaughter should be utilized by everyone in a business, the book is relevant for everyone. However, the content will be of special interest to leaders because of the core message it reinforces: Branding is everything. Unlike other branding books which tend to get abstract when discussing branding, Preventing BrandSlaughter focuses on the down-to-earth implications of not taking your brand seriously.

This article, "How the Best Businesses Are Preventing BrandSlaughter" was first published on Small Business Trends

Will Your Customers Soon Be Shopping in Virtual Reality? – #Gateway17

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-06-23 15:30

The way customers shop is changing. And it’s not just about buying products online anymore. New technology like virtual reality also has the potential to change the way people discover and purchase products.

This might not be commonplace in the U.S. just yet. But it’s starting to catch on in other parts of the world. At this week’s Gateway ‘17 event, experts on the Chinese market discussed the way virtual reality is catching on quickly with Chinese shoppers.

Small Business Trends attended the inaugural Gateway’17 event June 20 and 21 at Cobo Center in Detroit.

“It’s not that the technology is more advanced, but the rate of adoption is a little different in China,” said Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group in a presentation at Wednesday’s Gateway ‘17 event.

Virtual Reality Shopping

Basically, if your business sells products online, you could use VR to offer an online shopping experience that mimics the actual retail experience. Customers can look around a store and locate specific products without having to actually make the trip to a store. And if you don’t have a retail location, you could theoretically create one to offer a similar experience to customers using VR headsets.

But VR isn’t the only type of technology changing the shopping experience in China. Some businesses have also made use of augmented reality to give customers the ability to do things like try on virtual makeup or see virtual home decor items in their actual rooms.

Even though this technology hasn’t caught on in the U.S. quite as quickly, businesses still have access to the tools needed to make shopping experiences like this possible. So if there’s something that you think could improve the shopping experience for your customers, you could benefit from jumping on this technology early on.

Virtual Reality Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Will Your Customers Soon Be Shopping in Virtual Reality? – #Gateway17" was first published on Small Business Trends