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Learn How to Close Deals Faster at This Upcoming Webinar

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-12-16 14:30

So you’ve arranged a deal with a new client. Now what?

Closing big deals is an important part of running a business. But it’s easier said than done. There are a lot of potential roadblocks that can get in the way. So you need to find ways to speed up the process wherever possible.

An upcoming webinar, sponsored by DocuSign, aims to help you do just that. Make it Rain Money: How to Close Deals Faster and Speed Up Collections is scheduled for January 17. You can learn more about the event and how to sign up in the Featured Events Section.

And that’s just one of the upcoming webinars and events that could help your small business grow in 2018. Check out even more 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

Make it Rain Money: How to Close Deals Faster and Speed Up Collections
January 17, 2018, Online

Would you like to bring revenue in the door faster? Do you want every edge possible to get paid fast? In this webinar, learn how other small businesses are eliminating their pain points in the contract and invoicing process, through use of electronic signature and invoicing apps. You’ll hear the results of exclusive DocuSign research about where other small businesses encounter the biggest challenges, and how to solve them. Today’s tools minimize manual steps and mistakes. Digital automation streamlines activities, tracks status and follows up for you — freeing up staff for other activities. Register today!

And most importantly, these tools get you paid faster, improving your cash flow.

At the end of this webinar, you’ll walk away with concrete tips for how to get contracts signed and invoices paid — much faster. Plus, you get access to DocuSign research and two concise whitepapers with insights and actionable ideas for how to improve YOUR company’s systems. So you get paid faster.

Sponsored by DocuSign.

WEBINAR: 5 Trends that Will Drive Your Profitability and Growth in 2018
January 24, 2018, Online

Customer habits and perceptions are rapidly evolving as new technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things go mainstream. New opportunities are opening up – but at the same time businesses of all sizes are under intense pressure to meet changing customer expectations. In this webinar on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 2:00 pm ET, you will learn five key trends that will drive profitability and growth in 2018, if businesses quickly leverage them and adapt to them, including: The Automation Revolution, Rise of Amazon, Expectations, The Instant Customer Service Trend, The DIY Dichotomy, Always-On Operations. Get ahead of the curve and lead in your marketplace, by understanding how to use these trends for growth and profit. Register today!

LEAP HR: Retail Conference, Nashville 2018
February 27, 2018, Nashville, Tenn.

LEAP HR: Retail 2018 will once again dig deeper into the innovative people leaps helping digital-native and established retailers succeed in a rapidly transforming industry. With new speakers, fresh case studies, and a pre-conference ‘Boot Camp’ day dedicated to what the next-generation retail workforce really looks like, LEAP HR Retail 2018 remains the unique opportunity for senior people leaders in this industry to really challenge and get creative around how we do HR in retail.

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.

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This article, "Learn How to Close Deals Faster at This Upcoming Webinar" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Lessons to Learn So You Make Fewer Business Mistakes

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-12-16 13:00

Making mistakes is part of running a business. But some mistakes can be avoided if you’re willing to learn from others who have been there before, like members of the online small business community. Here are some lessons you can learn based on mistakes other entrepreneurs have made through the years.

Improve Your Data Quality Metrics

Whether you use data for recruiting or any other aspect of running your business, the quality of those metrics can be just as important as the quantity. In this Jobscience post, Joel Dipietro offers three ways you can improve your own data quality.

Avoid These Email and Social Media Marketing Pitfalls

Email and social media have been popular marketing techniques for years, meaning businesses have had plenty of time to make mistakes with these methods. If you want to avoid some of the most common pitfalls, check out this Basic Blog Tips post by Kevin Ocasio.

Learn the New Rules of Writing for the Web

Lots of entrepreneurs who have strong writing skills still don’t understand how to put together content for the web. There’s a new set of rules you need to abide by, as Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media explains. BizSugar members also shared commentary on the post.

Use These Local Search Tactics Your Competitors Aren’t Using

Lots of local businesses tend to use the same marketing methods as their competitors. But it’s hard to stand out that way. Instead, take a look at the local search tactics listed in a recent Search Engine Land post by Sherry Bonelli for some more original ideas.

Don’t Forget the Little Things When Testing

Running tests can help you gain valuable insights about your target customers. And you don’t have to get very complicated with your testing in order to benefit your business. In this Target Marketing post, Chuck McLeester discusses the importance of details when it comes to testing.

Keep an Eye on These Social Media Trends for 2018

It’s easy to fall into a rut when it comes to social media marketing. You might have found some tactics have worked for your business in the past. But that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to be effective as trends change. To keep up, see some of the upcoming social media trends in this Prepare 1 post by Blair Evan Ball.

Monitor These Web Design Trends

By that same token, it’s also important to keep an eye on trends in web design so you can update your own site accordingly. Learn some of the biggest trends for 2018 in a decent Crowdspring post by Amanda Bowman.

Help Your SEO Strategy by Avoiding These Website Mistakes

SEO is constantly changing. So it can be easy for entrepreneurs to make missteps in their own websites that can negatively impact search engine rankings. To avoid some of the biggest pitfalls, check out the advice from Neil Patel here.

Don’t Hire SEO Experts Who Tell You These Five Things

In order to help your SEO strategy, you might even consider hiring an SEO expert. But beware! Some SEO strategists are better than others. There are five claims in particular you should treat with extreme skepticism, according to Hilary Young in a recent Digital Success Post. You can also see what members of the BizSugar community had to say about the post.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Lots of businesses use social media. But it can be easy to just go through the motions rather than having a plan that’s actually effective. Instead, learn how to use social media in a way that actually benefits your business in this Noobpreneur post by Ivan Widjaya.

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.

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This article, "10 Lessons to Learn So You Make Fewer Business Mistakes" was first published on Small Business Trends

Are You Using the Most Popular Workplace Apps of 2017 in Your Business?

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-12-16 10:30

Zapier just released its annual report identifying the most popular and fastest growing apps in the workplace. The Best of 2017: 30 Web Apps and Software Trends That Ruled the Workplace includes a few new apps, but you will easily recognize many of them.

List of Most Popular Business Apps in 2017

Zapier listed the most popular business apps in 2017 using three categories: fastest-growing, new apps and all-stars. This includes tried and true apps such as spreadsheet, email and communications, as well as collaboration, social media and web creation tools for today’s digital workforce.

If you have a small business, keeping track of what technologies are available in the market place allows you to future proof your company. By identifying applications relevant to your industry and making them part of your operations, your business can be more efficient and keep competition at bay.

Zapier analyzed more than 900 apps in over 50 categories and the companies that use them to come up with the 30 apps for 2017. The list is also an indicator as to what will be trending in 2018, just as the 2016 report predicted top apps for 2017.

This year, the increased number of apps moving to the web have taken up more space on the list. It is being driven by remote work, collaboration and better access. According to Matthew Guay, senior editor and writer at Zapier, who authored the report, “Every business today relies on software to operate smoothly. Increasingly, these tools have moved to the web, allowing everyone to work from anywhere.”

Leading Trends with The Most Popular Business Apps in 2017

According to the report, the inclusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI), new designs and automation have been responsible for creating easier and better user experience in apps. This has resulted in apps that are improving functions to convert leads into sales, send email and nurture customer relationships.

When it comes to data, the apps are also better at gathering, streamlining and making sense of the information. The fastest growing social media apps were the ones designed to gather data directly from ads and convert it to leads.

Collaborative and email apps were also in the list as both tools have become invaluable to meet the needs of today’s workforce and the way they communicate and work.

Here are the top apps in their respective categories.

Fastest Growing Apps

Top New Apps

All-Star Apps

Zapier has an automation tool integrated with more than 900 apps. The solution the company provides allows more than two million registered users across many industries to automate their workflow. Some of the apps include Facebook Lead Ads, Slack, Quickbooks, Google Sheets, Google Docs and many others.

Images: Zapier

This article, "Are You Using the Most Popular Workplace Apps of 2017 in Your Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Inspiration Code Helps Leaders Make an Impact

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-12-16 08:00

Are you seeking to inspire in the workplace? Do you want a team who is ready to go the extra mile for you? The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day may be of interest to you. Written by leadership coach and communication expert Kristi Hedges, the book helps readers unlock the “code” behind inspirational leaders like Elon Musk, Tony Robbins, or Oprah Winfrey.

What is The Inspiration Code About?

How do you keep your team inspired? Many leaders answer this question with things like retreats, keynote speakers, pizza parties or “Employee of the Month” parking spaces. While these external things may temporary boost in motivation, they don’t lead to inspiration.

The Inspiration Code advocates a different approach. Inspiration, the book claims, is an internal job.

Facilitating inspiration in the workplace isn’t a matter of picking the right trophy or retreat. It’s about creating an environment where inspirational moments can happen.

Hedges places her focus on the definition of inspiration itself. Inspiration, she believes, always starts with a conversation. As she describes in the book:

“…When I look back, every major move I’ve made has been preceded by an inspiring conversation.”

During an inspirational conversation, something big happens. A person accepts an invitation to move beyond their comfort zone.

Hedges continues:

“The person getting inspired has to become aware of a better possibility. That’s how the process starts.”

How do you start an inspirational conversation? The book has a very specific answer for that, the “Inspire Path.” The Inspire Path is a communication model consisting of four specific qualities. Leaders who embody these qualities, in words and action, increase their chances of reaching (and inspiring) others.

Hedges is an ICF-credentialed leadership coach, keynote speaker and member of the Georgetown University teaching faculty. Hedges started out in the technology and communications industry, opening one of the first tech communications firms in the Washington DC area. Currently, she is the Principal at the Hedges Company and a founding partner at Element North, a leadership development company. She also serves as a regular contributor to Forbes and other publications on leadership and communication.

What Was Best About The Inspiration Code?

The best part of The Inspiration Code is the concrete approach Hedges applies to an abstract topic, “inspiration”. As she describes in the book, leaders are desperate for strategies to inspire their workforce. These leaders know an inspired workforce is a productive workforce now and in the future. Despite this need, there is no defined path to building an inspirational leader. That’s where The Inspiration Code comes in. It provides an easy-to-use framework to help those aspiring to move closer to their goal of becoming inspiring leaders.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Inspiration Code is filled with practical advice on integrating inspiring conversations into your leadership. For some leaders, this may be all that is needed. For others, more detail on skill development would be helpful. The book needs more information about the journey to becoming an inspirational leader for those who are not sure where they fall on the “inspiring leader” scale.

Why Read The Inspiration Code?

The Inspiration Code is a high-energy book designed for leaders who want to make an impact. It is about the dynamics of communication, not the mechanics.  This is about communication on a deeper and more impactful level. The Inspiration Code is about something deeper.

The book takes the vague concept of “inspiration” and applies a concrete framework. This allows leaders to become more intentional in their communication with others. As Hedges points out, inspiration is not a random gift bestowed on lucky leaders. It is a specific set of core skills that anyone can work on. If you (or a leader that you know) wants to refine the impact of their communication, this book may be of help.

This article, "The Inspiration Code Helps Leaders Make an Impact" was first published on Small Business Trends

(POLL) Is Your Company Hosting a Holiday Party This Year?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-12-15 16:30

Is the office party really a thing of Christmas past?

Employees don’t look forward to the holiday office party the way they once may have. In fact, data from Randstad US found that just one-third of all employees look forward to an office party the most this time of year.

Instead, they want time away from work entirely, not to spend down time with their co-workers. You can certainly understand the need to be away from people at work for a while. You know how certain people get at the office Christmas party.

With more companies relying on remote workers, a traditional office holiday party may seem a bit foreign now. For some companies that lean heavily on remote workers, it’s next to impossible to host such a party.

However, there are some signs that the office party isn’t going away entirely. Recently, Spotify and LinkedIn combined forces to promote a Christmas music playlist to keep the parties that are happening … well, happening. And Slack just launched a Secret Santa app to put a fun spin on a classic game that many people loathe.

This week, we want to know if your company is following in this bah-humbug trend and forgoing an office holiday party. Are these surveys just capturing a bunch of Scrooges?

Let us know by answering the question below on whether or not your company is hosting a holiday party this year. Share more thoughts on this topic in the comments section below, too.

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

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "(POLL) Is Your Company Hosting a Holiday Party This Year?" was first published on Small Business Trends

YouTube, Vine Making Headlines for Small Businesses

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-12-15 14:30

Video has become a very powerful marketing avenue for businesses. And YouTube is at the forefront of that. So when the platform adds community features like it announced recently, it could provide a major boon for marketers.

And YouTube isn’t the only video platform out there for marketers. Vine was once a popular outlet for short video clips. And the once-defunct platform could be making a comeback according to a recent announcement.

You can read about these headlines and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media YouTube  Expands Community Features Allowing Businesses Greater Customer Engagement

YouTube recently announced that its “Community” feature will be available to creators with more than 10,000 subscribers. About a year ago, YouTube launched a “Community” feature that allowed the invited creators to connect with their audience in-between uploads with GIFs, text, pictures, polls and more.

Vine 2 Launch May Give New Opportunities for Marketing Your Business with Video

If you are still mourning the demise of Vine, the recent tweets from co-founder Dom Hofmann might put a smile on your face. His tweets are indicating he may be in the process of resurrecting the six second video platform — or a version of it. On November 30, Hofmann tweeted: i’m going to work on a follow-up to vine.

How Does Following Hashtags on Instragram Change Your Social Media Strategy?

You can now follow hashtags on Instagram. What exactly does that mean for the way you engage with your customers and track your social media marketing? Being able to follow hashtags is going to make it easier to identify and discover brands, images, videos, people and businesses on Instagram.

Economy Small Businesses Add 50,000 Jobs in November

Small businesses are doing their part to contribute to record lows in unemployment and job creation. November 2017 ADP Small Business Report According to the latest ADP (NASDAQ:ADP) Employment Report for November, small businesses added 50,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy.

Only 47% of Small Business Owners Believe Tax Reform Will Help Them

Maybe it’s because lawmakers in Washington DC don’t know what will be in the final tax reform bill but only 47 percent of small business owners believe it’s going to benefit them. Paychex recently surveyed a group of small business owners to see how they feel about federal attempts to pass major tax reform legislation.

Ecommerce Sales to China Will Exceed $100 Billion by Close of 2017

Cross-border ecommerce sales into China are expected to reach more than $100 billion by the end of 2017, according to data from eMarketer. That’s a significant increase from the $78.5 billion in sales from 2016. These latest figures are part of a growing trend of importing to China, which could lead to plenty of potential opportunities for U.S. small businesses.

Employment Tyto Care Brings  Medical Visit to You Without Taking Time Away from Your Business

A flu outbreak can bring your small business productivity to a standstill during a really important time of year. But new technology could provide ways for individuals and businesses to quickly identify illnesses and potentially avoid the spread of serious diseases.

63% of IT Pros Say They’re Underpaid, Are Your Employees Among Them?

Your small business’s IT pros probably think they’re underpaid, according to a recent study. And that could lead to them looking for other opportunities in the coming year. The 2018 IT Career Outlook report from IT network Spiceworks found that 63 percent of IT professionals believe they’re currently underpaid.

The  Pence Rule Will Not Protect Your Small Business, and Could Cause More Trouble

The rash of sexual harassment accusations across the country is raising a lot of questions. Claims are made and in a lot of cases, employers move swiftly with knee-jerk responses. Fire first, ask questions later. These claims are not limited to high-profile cases like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Judge Roy Moore and Sen. Al Franken. Small business may face this issue as well.

This Company Went Low-Tech to Fill a Hi-Tech Job

Technology has had a major impact on the recruiting and hiring process. But one tech company is bucking the trend and going low-tech with its hiring efforts — by using a simple sandwich board. Betabrand is an online crowdfunding platform that focuses on clothing designs. Clearly, it has the resources and tech knowledge to create a job posting.

Finance Butcher Shop Startup Discovers Crowdfunding Magic Via Intuit

What startup entrepreneur hasn’t dreamed of borrowing Cinderella’s fairy godmother or Aladdin’s genie to make their every wish come true? While they weren’t necessarily wishing for it, that’s exactly what happened to Will and Erica Messmer of Jersey City, New Jersey. Before the couple got married earlier this year, they decided to pursue their dream of entrepreneurship.

Small Business Loan Application Approvals Up Across the Board

The Biz2Credit Small Business Index for November 2017 revealed an across-the-board increase in the business loan approval rates for bank and non-bank lenders. According to the study, there were record highs with every category of lenders, showing improvements for the month.

2018 Standard Mileage Rate Goes Up, IRS Announces

The IRS has released the 2018 standard mileage rate, and it reflects a slight increase over 2017’s rate.  The Internal Revenue Service also set the standard mileage rate for medical and moving purposes. Beginning January 1, 2018, the IRS standard mileage rate for cars, vans, pickups or panel trucks will be: 54.5 cents per mile driven for business, up 1 cent from 2017.

Green Business 12 Ways to Save on Electricity During the Holiday Season

With office parties to organize and gifts to send out to employees, clients and customers, things can get hectic for businesses during the holidays, as well as expensive. With a little bit of effort and know-how, one expense businesses can cut down and make savings on is electricity.

Local Marketing ZipSprout Connects Small Businesses to Local Sponsorship Opportunities

Marketing and SEO matchmaking platform ZipSprout is introducing a new tool in 2018. The Sprout Seeker Tool aims to help local businesses automatically find the sponsorship opportunities in their area and most relevant to their target customers.

The A to Z of Attracting Last Minute Shoppers

Are you one of those people who had your holiday shopping done in September? Good for you, but most Americans are more like me: still scrambling for those final few gifts. In 2016, last-minute holiday shoppers pushed spending to new heights, and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again this year.

89% Percent of Women, 79% of Men Will Shop In-Store This Year, Study Says

The news about the “Retail Apocalypse” is not encouraging, but Fundera has released a new infographic that should give retailers hope. Titled “Retail’s Not Dead,” the report on which the infographic is based says 89 percent of women and 79 percent of men intend to shop in-store for their holiday gifts.

Management LinkedIn and Spotify Team Up On a Holiday Office Party Playlist With Plenty of Bublé

You can’t have a great party without an accompanying playlist. Putting one together is an art form in some circles. And it’s likely you’ll be attending or hosting at least one holiday party in the coming weeks. Most employees are actually starting to feel something short of dread when it comes to going to these parties anymore.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Major-Morris Law Helps Businesses Protect Intellectual Property

Businesses that have intellectual property need to prioritize protecting those items. Having an attorney that specializes in trademark and copyright issues can be a major benefit. Kimra Major-Morris, Esq. is the lawyer behind Major-Morris Law, LLC, a law firm that works with businesses on those issues.

Small Business Operations Department of Labor Wants to Reverse Rule on Tip Sharing for Restaurant Servers

The Department of Labor recently proposed a reversal of part of its current tip regulations from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Currently, employees who make at least the federal minimum wage in regular hourly pay are ineligible to receive tips through a tip pooling system without a special tip credit.

Intuit Will Acquire Employee Time Tracking Software Tsheets for $340 million

Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), parent company of accounting software QuickBooks and TurboTax, has signed an agreement to acquire the time tracking and employee scheduling software company Tsheets for $340 million. The acquisition will reportedly make manual time tracking a thing of the past for small businesses, the self-employed, accountants and gig workers.

New  Dialpad Free Claims to Kill the Desk Phone But May Kill Your Business Phone Bill Too

Do you have a small business with five employees or less? Well, if you do, Dialpad has released a new service called Dialpad Free which will get rid of your phone bill. The company’s slogan says “Kill the Desk Phone,” but with this new service, it is striving to do the same with the phone bill.

1 in 4 Small Businesses Believe Their Payment System Can’t Handle a Holiday Rush

The holiday rush, while full of opportunities, also comes with plenty of challenges for businesses. Processing payments can be one of those challenges if you don’t have a reliable system in place to maximize all of that extra business. This is actually a pretty big problem for small businesses.

Startup 81% of  Millennials Say Business Success Means Having a Purpose, Even if it Costs Them Money

Millennials prioritize different things than past generations have when it comes to business success. In fact, 81 percent of them think that a business needs a genuine purpose that resonates with people in order to be successful, according to a recent survey from American Express and Kantar Futures.

Technology Trends Can Microsoft’s Whiteboard App for Windows 10 Devices Help Your Team Collaborate?

Earlier this week, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) released a preview of the new Whiteboard app that basically allows you, together with your team, to collaborate on a “digital canvas that displays drawings, images as well as hand-written notes.

Wix Code Introduces Dynamic Web Design for Business – No Tech Knowledge Required

Website building platform Wix.com Ltd. (NASDAQ: WIX) has launched Wix Code, a web development solution that allows you to extend substantially the functionality of your Wix website. With Wix Code, you can enrich your website or web application with hundreds of design and website components without needing technical knowledge or coding — all from the visual elements of the Wix Editor.

Cortana Partners with Insteon on Smart Building Tech for the Home Office

Until recently, Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana has been limited to functions on your computer. The main rivals in the voice assistant arena can do a lot more than that, especially in your home office. Alexa can order supplies. Google can give you travel information. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) may be trying to catch up though.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "YouTube, Vine Making Headlines for Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

Marcus Lemonis: The Profit Isn’t About Small Business, It’s About How People Are Transformed By Opportunity

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-12-15 13:00

One of the highlights of last week’s Xerocon event, put on by cloud accounting platform Xero, was meeting Marcus Lemonis – businessman, investor and star of CNBC’s The Profit. And before he took the stage for his conference ending keynote, I had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a great conversation. Marcus shares how the impetus for the show was more social experiment than small business, how vulnerability is key to business success and fixing people, and how he won’t do business with someone, even as a customer, unless he knows that they understand their business.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview click on the video or embedded SoundCloud player below.

* * * * *

Small Business Trends: I know there’s probably a lot of people out there who already know who you are, but maybe we can get just an overview of your personal background.

Marcus Lemonis: Well, just kind of going with that question or that comment alone, I always tell people in business that even if you think that people know who you are, it’s always good to introduce yourself again. Because there’s new players and so if you think about yourself as a business owner, you want to always be reintroducing yourself to somebody that may have forgotten, that may have been mad at you.

So I’m Marcus Lemonis and I am a … I don’t even know how I would describe myself. I would say I’m just a normal guy like everybody else that decided that small business was the most important thing in my life. And when we’re all growing up, our mothers will ask us, “What are you going to make of yourself? What are you going to do with yourself?” And I struggled for years to answer that question. And as I got a little bit older and I started to understand who I was, I realized that my purpose in life was to stick up for the little guy, and that was sort of me when I was younger.

I spend really the bulk of my time investing in small business. It is my hobby, it is my passion, it is the thing I love to do more than anything else. Yeah.

Small Business Trends: When did you decide that you wanted to go into the small business and help them out?

Marcus Lemonis: You know what? It really came right outside of the 2008, 2009 market collapse. We were all watching the news and it was … Fortune 100 companies and their stock is down, and the banks are closing. And I felt the news was very one-sided as it related to big business. And then nobody was talking about mainstream, and nobody was talking about small town businesses. And over 90% of this country is involved in small business, one way or the other, and I didn’t think anybody was talking about it. And I think it was in that moment where I said, “Somebody’s got to actually be a champion for this in a different way.”

The secret behind what I do today, and it’s something that I don’t talk about a lot, is that the reason I decided to do the show was one giant social experiment. It really isn’t about small business, it is about people and how business can transform, good or bad, people. And the social experiment … And I said when I got to 100 episodes I would talk about it a little more, I’m at 78. The social experiment really is how do people deal with opportunity. And how do they deal with their past and how does opportunity and their past sort of intersect.

You go into businesses today and they’ll all tell you, “I can’t get a loan and I can’t do this, and I can’t do that.” And it’s a little bit of … I don’t want to call it a sob story but I’ll call it a excuse. Right? And I buy off on these excuses because I make them the same way. And so what I wanted to do is really understand how people function. And if you’ve ever seen the show “The Profit”, it really is about people more than it’s about business.

Small Business Trends: Some of the really interesting episodes always have the family dynamic. So when you have business … It’s tough enough when you try to go into business, stay in a business, but how does the family dynamic play a role in the success? And how difficult is it to get the family dynamic back on track once it’s kind of gotten off track?

Marcus Lemonis: I’ve long told people that the reason that small businesses are largely family businesses, because there’s this weird kind of combination, is that when you and I or anybody else starts a small business, we don’t have any money. We can’t hire any employees so we’re asking our mom, our dad, our aunt, our uncle, our sister, our kids, “Hey. I need you to pitch in. You handle marketing. Your handle the inventory.” And by definition, it sort of becomes a family business, even if it’s a part-time job for most of the people that work there. And I think what ends up happening is … Families are interesting because whether anybody wants to admit it or not, there is still a pecking order in a family. Right? At least in my family, my mom’s in charge, there’s no question about it. There’s not any confusion about it-

Small Business Trends: Not up for debate or anything.

Marcus Lemonis: … But then you start getting brother-in-laws, sister-in-laws, kids, son, and you have your life on the line on this business and not everybody’s necessarily performing. It’s very difficult to tell your son, your daughter or your wife, or your husband, “Hey. I think you need to go.”

Small Business Trends: But that’s the job that you kind of help them do.

Marcus Lemonis: That’s why I think people call me. I was laughing the other day, I said, “Do people call me because they want me to do the dirty work?” It’s like, “I really want my wife to be fired but I don’t want to do it, so you do it.” It’s like, “No. I’m not doing it.”

Small Business Trends: Well think about the joy of having them succeed after all the things they go through? How does that make you feel? I know it’s got to make them feel good, but how does it help make you feel?

Marcus Lemonis: Success for me in my journey is really about people’s personal transformation. And if they have personal transformation, the business usually will succeed. Most people, when they watch a television show about business investing, it’s like, “Okay. How much did you invest? How much money did we make? What was the return? What are the percentages?” And yeah, there’s a moment where that’s relevant, but the real moment is how do you take somebody who doesn’t have confidence in themselves, who doesn’t have a process in place, who doesn’t clearly see where they want to go but they have good ideas and get them to just discover themselves. In more cases than not, I’m not telling people what to do, I’m telling them how I want them to think differently. And then what they do with that is up to them, but it’s satisfying for me.

?

Small Business Trends: Are you surprised when you … They know your track record, they know you have this level of success. When you suggest things and recommend things and then they kind of fight you?

Marcus Lemonis: I’m not surprised and I’ll tell you why. If any of us had some guy come into their business after we’ve been in business for 15 years and tell us how wrong we were, that we’re doing something wrong, we wouldn’t be that crazy about it either, right? And so it’s very easy for all of us to sit and watch people who have taken a huge risk by making themselves vulnerable, putting themselves on television, having the error of their ways or the error of their character be exposed. And that’s why I’m usually a lot nicer about it, at least early on. Because I think to myself, if that was me I wouldn’t want somebody telling me how dumb I was.

And it’s funny because I love to compare our show to other shows where people invest in small businesses, and point out that you don’t have to tell somebody how dumb they are to get the point across. You don’t have to tell somebody that it’s the stupidest idea you’ve ever seen. You’re better off telling people, “Okay. Why did you have this idea? And why’d you think it was going to work? Ma’am I just have to tell you they’re not going to work. But I understand. But tell me why you did it?” And you’ve got to get inside their head to understand what their logic was. “Well, I really like music.” Okay, let’s keep going. And so for me, I think the key is how do you get people to actually think differently. That’s the key for me.

Small Business Trends: Let’s talk a little bit about technology and businesses, particularly small business. We’re at a small business technology conference. Do you see small businesses leveraging technology as well as they can?

Marcus Lemonis: I think that … I’ll include myself in this answer. I think that technology is an intimidating thing, and I think that in order for companies to be successful in selling their technology, they have to make the user friendliness of it and the humanity of it seem real.

We just had a brief conversation about this [Mevo] camera. I’m fascinated by it, I’m intimidated by it. I think when you’re talking about systems, and process, and technology, and accounting, you have to really make it seem simpler than it is. And more importantly, more affordable. So most small businesses do not venture into technology because they think I either A, can’t afford the initial investment or B, I can’t afford the recurring investment. And I think as entrepreneurs, all of us included, we have to make the technology, and the process of accounting, and systems seem manageable and affordable. And I think that’s why conferences like this do that is they’re trying to communicate to people that isn’t have to be … It isn’t all Dell, it isn’t all Oracle and it isn’t all Salesforce, which all usually equate to big capital expenditures, big monthly fees. There are systems and solutions for small businesses and if they want to become a big business, they better get after it.

Small Business Trends: You’re about to go on stage and speak to hundreds of small business advisors, accounting advisors, what do you plan to tell these folks?

Marcus Lemonis: Well I think the biggest advice that I would give small business advisors and accounting advisors is understand their audience, and get to know their clients better, and understand why their clients do what they do, and build a relationship with them. And we’ll talk about it during my presentation, but vulnerability for me is the absolute Holy Grail, key to fixing people. And if you’re selling a product or service and you’re really just selling the product or service, then I think your penetration success is going to be low. But if we can connect on a human level about our lives, about our hardships, about things that have happened to us … Just about anything.

What you’re essentially building is you’re building trust. And then once you build that trust, you’re saying, “Look man. I’m sorry to have to tell you this but you kind of don’t know your numbers, and there’s no system in place, and you have no strategy. And I really want you to be successful and I’m in this weird spot because we have a relationship and I have this product. So you tell me how you want this relationship to go. If you want me to just be your friend and that’s it, I’m open to that. If you want me to try to help you improve your business as your friend, I’m open to that as well.” And I think that that vulnerability, and that full disclosure, and that transparency would make me open up.

If you said to me, “I can help make your businesses better.” I’d be like, “All right. I don’t know everything.”

I think the last piece of advice that I would give people is small business owners don’t want to feel like they’re dumb, and they don’t want to feel insecure, and they don’t want to feel like they’ve made a bunch of mistakes. And so you have to go on this journey with them where they understand that every decision they made had a plus and a minus, and we’re going to celebrate the pluses and we’re going to learn from the minuses, and we’re not going to point out your frailties. If you can get on the level with them, then it changes. If you go in there like, “You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t have this right and you don’t have that right.” It’s like, “Look. I don’t need to know that I’m in trouble, I knew I was in trouble before you came.” And so that’s I think the key. And that’s what I would tell anybody.

Small Business Trends: So what big companies that are doing things successfully in your mind are companies that small businesses should really look at, emulate and take lessons from?

Marcus Lemonis: Rather than picking a specific business, I’ll pick companies that understand two fundamental things. One, the importance of customer data, and how to accumulate it, and how to mine it, and how to use it, and how to understand it to improve your ROI on marketing, to improve the retention of those customers. But before any of that happens, you have to understand your business.

So many businesses fail to put their numbers, and their cash flow, and their balance sheet into systems where they truly have this dashboard. For me, financial statements are a necessary evil. You don’t go to the doctor without all sorts of information, and your doctor doesn’t give you a diagnosis without running a bunch of tests. And he doesn’t’ give you a new diet or a new regiment without having all the information. And I apply that to business. You can’t understand where to go in your business, who to hire, who to fire, what to do, how to change things, what to improve, how to change your prices, what products to drop, what products to launch. You don’t understand any of that if you don’t have the footprint of what your business is live. And so, I know people hate accounting, I really do. I know they hate it, but then you shouldn’t be in business. It really is one of those things where you’re just like, “I don’t like broccoli, but my mummy is making me eat it.” It’ll make you smarter. And if you own your company 100%, you’re obligated to yourself. If you have other investors, it’s a mandate. I won’t do business with people, not even as a customer. If I have a big retail business and there’s small businesses that sell products. Unless I know that they understand their business and they have the accounting systems in place. Because if I start doing business with you and I buy your product and I put it on my shelves, and then all of a sudden, you don’t have your act together and you go out of business, I’m in trouble.

This article, "Marcus Lemonis: The Profit Isn’t About Small Business, It’s About How People Are Transformed By Opportunity" was first published on Small Business Trends

Fiverr Helping Small Business Social Media Marketers with Video Content Services

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-12-15 11:36

If you’re looking to create video ads and marketing videos to promote your company, cost is probably just as important as what you’ll create.

New Fiverr Video Services

Fiverr has just opened up a new featured section on its freelancer marketplace for pros who create live action videos, video explainers, and video ads.

This is a place to go to find the right pros at the right prices for your small business as it wades into video marketing. The launch of this section is the result of Fiverr purchasing Veed.me in June 2017. And for creators of these videos, this is a featured section of a major freelancer marketplace. If you’re not already using Fiverr, it may be a few more reasons to market your skills there.

The new services will give anyone looking for quality video production access to creators in the Fiverr Video & Animation category. The creators of Live Action Explainer Videos and Short Video Ads offer everything from commercials to intros, product descriptions, tutorials and much more.

Small businesses, marketers, influencers, vloggers, consumers and others can now purchase video easily. It can then be posted on websites and social media pages to differentiate the quality of the content. For individuals and business relying on their video to attract customers, professional grade video makes a lot of difference.

The value of using video was explained by the former CEO of Veed.me Yoav Hornung, who is now Video & Animation Category Manager at Fiverr in the press release. He said, “The ability of a business and a brand to visually tell its story to core audiences has never been more important.”

Fiverr is going to use some of the technology from Veed.me to deliver a more detailed set of video services. Content creators will have new pages for video, and marketers will be able to find them faster based on expertise, experience and customer ratings.

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Live Action Explainers

With this service, you can order complete video production on-location shooting, professional actors, equipment, and more. Buyers can order product videos, on-location scripted videos and full-production commercials from the comfort of their home or office.

Short Video Ads

The Short Video Ads service provides videos for Facebook Ads, Instagram and Snapchat as well as six-second bumpers and pre-rolls for YouTube videos. This category is ideal for marketers running performance-based video marketing campaigns.

Video for the Small Business

Today’s consumers want to engage with the companies they do business with. It doesn’t matter whether they are a small mom and pop outfit or a large multinational. And video has become one of the best ways to make this possible.

When it comes to videos, 80 percent of customers prefer it over blogs. This also translates to more leads and sales, making it a much better marketing tool.

If you don’t have the time needed to make a video for your small business, the new services from Fiverr is a good place to start to see what is available to you.

Photo via Fiverr

This article, "Fiverr Helping Small Business Social Media Marketers with Video Content Services" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Power of Vulnerability Introduces a New Kind of Leadership

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-12-15 10:30

There’s an interesting new book for small business owners looking for fresh ideas on how to lead. Although it might sound counter-intuitive at first, The Power of Vulnerability makes a strong argument that effective leaders turn the reins over to their teams to strengthen their businesses.

The Power of Vulnerability Make Room for Improvement

Small Business Trends spoke with Jeff Manchester who co-authored the book with Barry Kaplan. Manchester started the conversation stressing there’s always room for improvement at the top in any small business.

“I think there’s something that all leadership is in some ways missing. In every organization I go into there’s always an opportunity to deepen trust within the management team and the company itself,” he said.

Find The Personal Piece

Manchester, who has decades of experience as an entrepreneur and business adviser, says a big portion of the modern productivity puzzle is the “personal piece.” Unlocking latent potential in any company is about understanding people on a deep level. It’s a fresh perspective and just as important to a healthy bottom line as a good line of products.

“A small business can’t maximize performance until they find a way to deepen connections and alignments with the organization,” he said

Make Workers INpowered

The book outlines a plan to shift your small business culture. Manchester has worked with more than 1000 presidents and CEOs. He says the centerpiece of any new business culture should include the INpowering concept.

“This is about harnessing the power of what’s inside each of us. We all have a perspective that comes from factors like where we were brought up and our education, as well as the work and life experiences we’ve had ” he explained. Manchester says it’s important for small businesses to draw on this innovative reservoir in each team member.

One of the linchpins is creating an atmosphere where people feel safe to be authentic.

“INpowerment is that personal cultural connection that allows us to feel safe enough to share in our organization,” said Manchester.

Strive for Authenticity

Keeping things real is critical. A good business culture allows you to ask questions when you don’t have the answers and challenge the boss when you think it’s appropriate. Authenticity is about encouraging team members to be themselves.

Everything rests on a culture where team members and employees feel safe taking a risk. That’s were the other building block, vulnerability, comes in. Manchester says although it might seem at first being vulnerable is akin to weakness, that’s not the case.

“It’s about being able to show up and ask for help because you don’t have all the answers. Vulnerability is about being able to take the risk to challenge the boss or even put thoughts before the group,” Manchester says. “Teams have to be willing to take a risk.”

Gather the Ingredients

One of the other major ingredients that allows everything else to interact is a small business culture that rests on psychological safety. The Power of Vulnerability outlines the steps that are necessary to guarantee the atmosphere where a team’s potential builds on this idea.

Seek Psychological Safety

“Psychological safety is about being comfortable enough to share your thoughts and opinions and not be judged,” said Manchester.

Unlocking the power within each team member is the end goal that will benefit small business.

“If we begin to do that together as a team, we make the best decisions together as an organization,” he said.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Power of Vulnerability Introduces a New Kind of Leadership" was first published on Small Business Trends

Department of Labor Wants to Reverse Rule on Tip Sharing for Restaurant Servers

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-12-15 09:30

The Department of Labor recently proposed a reversal of part of its current tip regulations from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Proposed Tip-Pooling Changes

Currently, employees who make at least the federal minimum wage in regular hourly pay are ineligible to receive tips through a tip pooling system without a special tip credit. But the new proposal would allow more employees to receive tips, potentially evening out some wage disparities between tipped employees like servers and bartenders and behind-the-scenes workers like cooks. This can be especially prevalent at high end restaurants where employees can increase their regular wages significantly through tips.

However, critics of the change worry it would allow restaurants to go too far in controlling how the tips are dispersed among employees, potentially amounting to wage theft from servers who worked specifically to earn those tips.

According to a news release from the Department of Labor, there has been a significant amount of litigation related to this regulation since it was enacted in 2011. And some states have even changed their laws to require employers to pay tipped employees a direct wage that’s at least the federal minimum, which also impacts how many employers can use the FLSA tip credit.

From a small business perspective, this change could make an impact in a number of different ways. It could certainly have the desired effect of eliminating wage disparity and improving pay for employees who traditionally wouldn’t receive tips. However, it could also potentially lead to issues with tipped employees. If those workers feel like they’re not receiving fair pay, it could lead to turnover issues or maybe even a drop in customer satisfaction by impacing the level of service.

The Department of Labor is accepting public comments on this proposed rule change until January 3, 2018.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Department of Labor Wants to Reverse Rule on Tip Sharing for Restaurant Servers" was first published on Small Business Trends

2018 Standard Mileage Rate Goes Up, IRS Announces

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 18:49

The IRS has released the 2018 standard mileage rate, and it reflects a slight increase over 2017’s rate.  The Internal Revenue Service also set the standard mileage rate for medical and moving purposes.

Beginning January 1, 2018, the IRS standard mileage rate for cars, vans, pickups or panel trucks will be:

  • 54.5 cents per mile driven for business, up 1 cent from 2017.
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, also up 1 cent from 2017.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. (The charitable rate is set by statute and does not change.)

The standard mileage rate offers an easy way to calculate deductible costs of operating a motor vehicle for business purposes.

The IRS calculates its standard mileage rate based on an annual study by an outside firm of both fixed and variable costs connected to operating a vehicle.  It averages the cost of owning and operating a vehicle. The fluctuations in the mileage rate from year to year are based on a variety of factors.

The 2018 standard mileage rate applies to miles driven on or after January 1, 2018. For miles driven in earlier years, use the mileage rate in effect at that time.

Actual Costs vs Standard Mileage Rate for 2018

As a taxpayer, you do not have to use the IRS standard mileage rate for deducting business vehicle use.  You can opt instead to calculate the actual costs of operating your vehicle for business.  However, the IRS  says you must “maintain adequate records or other sufficient evidence” of those costs.

In other words, it will take more recordkeeping to track your actual expenses. The standard mileage rate is easier for most business owners to use, because all you have to keep track of are  miles driven and business purpose — not every expense for your vehicle.  That’s why many small businesses use the standard mileage rate to deduct business use of a vehicle whenever possible.

Mileage Reimbursement for Employees

The standard mileage rate can also be used to substantiate the reimbursement rate to employees for miles driven using their personal vehicle for business purposes.  Many employers choose to adopt the IRS standard mileage rate as the amount of mileage reimbursement.  However, employers may choose a different reimbursement rate other than the IRS standard mileage rate.  Some employers (a small number) may offer no reimbursement at all.

Many employers either issue a memo or add a reference in their employee handbook stating they provide reimbursement and the rate of reimbursement.  Employers should remember to adopt and communicate the new rate, if they typically track the IRS’s standard mileage figure.

Let’s suppose you choose to reimburse employees at the standard mileage rate that’s in effect for the year.  In that case, for miles driven during 2018 you would reimburse employees at a rate of 54.5 cents per mile.

To calculate the reimbursement, ask employees to document the miles driven for business purposes. Then simply multiply the miles the employee has driven by the reimbursement rate. If the total miles driven are 10,000, you multiply by $0.545 to reach $5,450 in reimbursement.

Following The IRS Mileage Rules

There is such a thing as mileage fraud, and the IRS is very strict when it comes to evaluating the information you provide. This is why you should keep very detailed and accurate records of your driving.

The IRS recommends taxpayers become familiar with the tax law and not overstate adjustments, deductions, exemptions and credits.

You cannot use the standard mileage rate if you:

  • Use the car for hire (such as a taxi).
  • Use five or more cars at the same time (as in fleet operations).
  • Claim depreciation or a section 179 deduction (Publication 463, Chapter 4).
  • Are a rural mail carrier who receives a qualified reimbursement (Publication 463, Chapter 4).
  • Use the actual expenses method.

The IRS’s announcement of the 2018 standard mileage rate can be found here (PDF).  It also includes the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate. And it includes the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate (FAVR) plan.

Related Resources:

2017 standard mileage rate (for miles driven in 2017)

This article, "2018 Standard Mileage Rate Goes Up, IRS Announces" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Business Loan Application Approvals Up Across the Board

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 16:30

The Biz2Credit Small Business Index for November 2017 revealed an across-the-board increase in the business loan approval rates for bank and non-bank lenders. According to the study, there were record highs with every category of lenders, showing improvements for the month.

Biz2Credit Lending Index November 2017

The approval rates for small businesses was at 25.1 percent at big banks, while institutional lenders reported 64.1 percent, both new highs for November. As for small banks, there was also a rise of one-tenth of one percent to 49 percent from the 48.9 percent of October.

Key economic indicators, as well as optimism with President Trump’s tax reform plan, deregulation in the banking industry, and higher interest rates, are in part responsible for the uptick in small business lending.

In addressing some of the reasoning behind the higher numbers, Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora, said in a press release, “The Federal Reserve has increased interest rates from their historic lows, and regulation of the banking industry is subsiding under Trump. Banks both large and small are more likely to lend under the current atmosphere.”

The Biz2Credit Small Business Index is based on primary data which is submitted by more than 1,000 small business owners who have applied for loans on Biz2Credit’s online lending platform. This platform connects business borrowers and lenders, which gives the data that comes from the index an added level of reliability and immediacy for its monthly reports. The company analyzes loan requests ranging from $25,000 to $3 million.

Other Lenders

The November index also reported alternative lenders saw an increase of one-tenth of one percent. For this particular segment, it was a great improvement because alternative lenders have experienced consecutive declines lasting more than one year. November’s number was 56.9 percent compared to October’s 56.8 percent.

For credit unions, also going through record lows in October, the approval rate was 40.3 percent for November — also an increase.

Take Away for Small Businesses

Whether you are just starting out or an established small business owner, this is a good time to start thinking about getting a loan. According to Arora, there is pent-up demand for small business credit in the marketplace. He goes on to say, businesses can take advantage of the current environment because it is less challenging to secure funding.

Images: Biz2Credit.com

This article, "Small Business Loan Application Approvals Up Across the Board" was first published on Small Business Trends

How Does Following Hashtags on Instragram Change Your Social Media Strategy?

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 14:30

You can now follow hashtags on Instagram. What exactly does that mean for the way you engage with your customers and track your social media marketing?

Being able to follow hashtags is going to make it easier to identify and discover brands, images, videos, people and businesses on Instagram. This will make it possible to find and connect with the many different communities and interests on the platform.

The ability to identify what is on Instagram using hashtags is more important now because the number of users is increasing at a very rapid rate. As of September 2017, Instagram had 800 monthly and 500 million daily active users. Going through all of those users without using hashtags can be a never-ending endeavor. From now on, when any one of them creates or shares something, the hashtags they use can be searched and followed.

How Do You Follow a Hashtag?

According to the blog announcing the new feature, following a hashtag is the same as following a friend on Instagram. Once you find the right hashtag, open the page and tap on the follow button.

Whenever they post anything with the hashtag, you will receive top posts from them in your feed as well as the latest stories in your stories bar. Unfollowing is just as easy. All you do is tap the unfollow button. 

Using Hashtags for Your Small Business

If you don’t know what a hashtag is, it is basically a label to identify the content posted on social media sites. You can create hashtags for the products, services, videos, images and more your business provides so your customers can find them easily.

When you create a hashtag, make it your own brand so other people will start using it. This drives more people to your page and gives your company more recognition. And don’t forget to include it on all of your digital and physical properties. This includes email, website, other social media pages, your physical store and even the bumper of your car.

Once you create your hashtag, don’t forget to track the performance so you can improve or replicate it for future promotions.

Images: Instagram

This article, "How Does Following Hashtags on Instragram Change Your Social Media Strategy?" was first published on Small Business Trends

25 Winter Business Ideas

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 13:00

Winter can be a great time to start a business. The holiday season and changing temperatures can put customers in a spending mood. So if you’re looking to start a new business this season, here are 25 different business ideas that are perfect for the winter months.

Winter Business Ideas Snow Removal Service

As the snow falls, homeowners will need to remove it from their walkways. So you can offer to remove it for them in exchange for a small fee.

Christmas Tree Farm

If you have a fair amount of land to work with, you can grow pine trees and let customers visit to pick out the perfect Christmas tree for their homes.

Holiday Pop-up Shop

Since people do so much more shopping during the holiday season than they do throughout the rest of the year, it’s the perfect time to open up a temporary pop-up retail store.

Gift Wrapping Service

You could also set up shop in a busy shopping area and offer to gift wrap purchases for customers.

Custom Ornament Sales

One popular item that customers tend to purchase mainly in the winter is the holiday ornament. You can offer your own unique version and even customize it for each person.

Gift Basket Service

You could also start a business where you make unique gift baskets and deliver them to gift recipients throughout the holidays.

Ice Rink

If you have enough space to work with, you can set up an ice rink and let people visit in exchange for a small fee.

Sleigh Ride Service

Another fun business idea, you can offer winter themed sleigh rides around parks or downtown areas.

Hot Beverage Stand

Coffee carts are always popular, but winter can also be a great time to sell other hot beverages like tea and hot chocolate near parks or shopping areas.

Towing Service

A towing service can do a lot of business in the winter, helping drivers who get stuck in snowbanks or slide on ice.

Home Winterization Service

You can also help homeowners who want to prepare their houses for winter by insulating, closing any gaps in windows or using other winterization techniques.

Chimney Sweep Service

Homeowners also tend to use their fireplaces quite a bit in the winter months. So it can be a great time to get into the chimney sweeping business.

Wreath Sales

Another festive product you can sell, offer natural wreaths made out of evergreen branches or make them out of craft supplies so customers can keep them for more than just one season.

Holiday Decorating Service

Some people want their homes to look festive for the holidays but don’t want to actually do any decorating themselves. So you can start a business where you arrange holiday decorations for those clients.

Ski Destination Vacation Rentals

If you’re interested in a winter tourism business, you can start a small resort or even rent out a home or room near a ski destination on platforms like Airbnb.

Winter Sports Instruction

If you’re skilled at any winter sports like skiing or hockey, you could also offer instruction services centered around those activities.

Winter Sports Equipment Rentals

Or you could set up shop near ski slopes or ice rinks to rent out equipment like ice skates, skis or snowboards.

Holiday Cookie Sales

Bakers, the holiday season is a great time to start a business focused on festive cookies and other desserts.

Greeting Card Sales

It’s also a great time to sell holiday cards and similar festive paper goods.

Knit Accessories Sales

If you’re a good knitter or crocheter, you can use your skills to make hats, scarves and other accessories to sell.

Errand Service for Seniors

Snow and ice can make running errands in the winter somewhat dangerous, especially for seniors. So you can start an errand services aimed at helping those customers with daily tasks through the winter months.

Party Planning Service

If you’re interested in starting a party planning business, you can focus specifically on holiday parties for large groups or corporations.

Personal Gift Shopping Service

You can also show off your shopping skills during the winter months by starting a personal shopping service focused specifically on holiday gift shoppers.

Furnace Repair Service

HVAC professionals that focus on furnace repair can also be especially popular during the winter months as homeowners experience heating issues.

Personal Training Service

January is the most popular time of the year for people to start a new workout routine. So while it’s possible to run a personal training business throughout the year, winter is the perfect time to get started.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "25 Winter Business Ideas" was first published on Small Business Trends

Intuit Will Acquire Employee Time Tracking Software Tsheets for $340 million

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 11:30

Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), parent company of accounting software QuickBooks and TurboTax, has signed an agreement to acquire the time tracking and employee scheduling software company Tsheets for $340 million. The acquisition will reportedly make manual time tracking a thing of the past for small businesses, the self-employed, accountants and gig workers.

Intuit Acquires Tsheets

Small businesses that use the QuickBooks platform will now have a single, seamless solution to track their time, streamline their invoicing and simplify paying their workers with confidence.

The QuickBooks platform is a popular small business ecosystem that automates and simplifies key business tasks, such as payroll, invoicing and payments. With more than 12,000 customers already using QuickBooks, Intuit says bringing Tsheets on board will benefit millions of small businesses and self-employed people.

“This acquisition will unlock critical upstream data that will allow us to create frictionless experiences that remove work, make it easier to get paid, and provide valuable insights into the health of our users’ businesses,” Alex Chriss, Senior Vice President, chief product and platform officer for Intuit’s Small Business and Self-Employed Group, said in a statement.

TSheets Product Benefits Set to Improve

TSheets currently serves over 35,000 customers, overseeing 500,000 workers managed through its platform. The time tracking app automates much of the time sheet process, making life simpler for contract employees, or staffers who have to track how much time they spend on any given project.

“With this transaction, we will work together [with Intuit] to vastly improve the customer experience and product benefits of the TSheets and QuickBooks integration,” said Matt Rissell, co-founder and CEO of TSheets, which has its headquarters in Eagle, Idaho.

The deal is expected to finalize by the end of Q2 2018. Once it closes, Time Capture, a TSheets feature, will become a new offering within Intuit’s Small Business offering. Rissell will assume leadership role reporting to Chriss.

“We are excited for what this [acquisition] means for customers, as we continue to champion their cause and provide them with the real business insights they need to thrive,” Rissell added.

Image: Tsheets

This article, "Intuit Will Acquire Employee Time Tracking Software Tsheets for $340 million" was first published on Small Business Trends

Tyto Care Brings Medical Visit to You Without Taking Time Away from Your Business

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 10:30

A flu outbreak can bring your small business productivity to a standstill during a really important time of year. But new technology could provide ways for individuals and businesses to quickly identify illnesses and potentially avoid the spread of serious diseases.

Tyto Care is one company that is part of the growing telemedicine field, a concept that allows doctors and care providers to use telecommunications devices to provide clinical health care remotely. So instead of having to actually make an appointment and drive to a doctor’s office, you could video chat with a provider to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan.

But until recently, this concept was mainly just a way for patients and doctors to communicate if a physical appointment wasn’t possible. There wasn’t really a way for doctors to take vitals and do an actual examination. That’s where Tyto Care comes in. The company has a couple of different products that allow patients to easily collect this information, which can then be sent directly to a care provider.

Currently, the company has two main options. There’s a device meant for individuals who receive care from telemedicine provider and one that’s meant for organizations with multiple patients, so it could work for a business with a large campus that includes a health clinic. Right now, Tyto Care works directly with telemedicine providers, who can then provide patients with these devices.

How Telemedicine Solution Benefits Small Businesses

For small businesses, this concept could be a game changer. Receiving medical care in the traditional sense isn’t always convenient for entrepreneurs or their employees, especially if they’re worried about time away from their businesses. So the ability to communicate quickly and efficiently with care providers could lead to quicker diagnoses and better care — which means less chance of major outbreaks.

Tyto Care CEO Dedi Gilad said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “Whether you have a small business or a large business, telehealth as a concept can offer a great way to save on healthcare costs and brings ease of access to improve healthcare to employees.”

Image: Tytocare.com

This article, "Tyto Care Brings Medical Visit to You Without Taking Time Away from Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

Wix Code Introduces Dynamic Web Design for Business – No Tech Knowledge Required

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 09:30

Website building platform Wix.com Ltd. (NASDAQ: WIX) has launched Wix Code, a web development solution that allows you to extend substantially the functionality of your Wix website. With Wix Code, you can enrich your website or web application with hundreds of design and website components without needing technical knowledge or coding — all from the visual elements of the Wix Editor.

Wix Code Advanced Development Capabilities

The all-in-one, drag-and-drop Wix Code development environment was introduced in beta version back in July this year to allow you to build the exact website or web applications you envision for your business. You needed to apply to use it in beta, but now Wix Code is out of beta and open to everyone.

“Wix Code provides an all-in-one platform, hosted in the secure Wix cloud, that allows users to spend their time creating, rather than on complicated setup and maintenance,” Wix said in a statement. “These capabilities are coupled with the Wix OS backend to manage all operational aspects of a business, blog, portfolio and more.”

Wix is already well-known for offering a useful website building tool for small businesses and solopreneurs. Some 100 million registered users, including entrepreneurs, small business owners and artists around the world, use Wix to create their websites using its signature drag-and-drop capabilities.

The newly launched Wix Code brings more functionality and introduces some new features, including Database Collections and Dynamic Pages.

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Wix Code Development Features Content Database

According to the Israel-based web development company, Database Collections allows you to manage all of your website’s content in one place. You can collect and store text, images, numbers, documents, user info and more in a database. You’ll be able to use it anywhere on your website.

Dynamic Pages With Wix Code

Dynamic Pages, on the other hand, allows you to generate one single design style that will adapt itself to each item (row) on your list once you’ve collected your content in your database. This allows you to create an infinite number of new pages — without having to duplicate them, says Wix. Each page (generated automatically) will have a custom URL and unique content.

Custom Forms, Multiple Uses

Other features include Custom Forms allowing you to create application forms, review sections, quizzes and more without writing a single line of code. Developers using Wix Code also have access to the Wix OS infrastructure empowering you to extend a website’s functionality with JavaScript and APIs.

Ready to Build Stunning Websites Using Wix Code?

To activate Wix Code, just go to the Wix Editor, click Tools, then Developer Tools. Tada! You’re in. The serverless development environment requires no setup.

“By using Wix Code, we will save about 50 percent off the time it would typically take to build on other platforms — but often more,” one Wix Code user, Andreas Kviby, is quoted as saying on the official Wix Blog. “It is amazing when you can create client apps in days instead of weeks. For designers who are not coders, they can now take some code and extend sites for clients in no time.”

Image: Wix.com

This article, "Wix Code Introduces Dynamic Web Design for Business – No Tech Knowledge Required" was first published on Small Business Trends

New Dialpad Free Claims to Kill the Desk Phone But May Kill Your Business Phone Bill Too

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 08:30

Do you have a small business with five employees or less? Well, if you do, Dialpad has released a new service called Dialpad Free which will get rid of your phone bill. The company’s slogan says “Kill the Desk Phone,” but with this new service, it is striving to do the same with the phone bill.

Dialpad says this is the first time a free business phone system has been offered in the history of telephony without a trial period or having to upgrade. And with Dialpad Free, up to five employees can be dialed by name or by extension from a single office number.

Small office or home office workers and small businesses can take advantage of this offer to lower their monthly communications bill. As a free service, it has its limitations, but it is still a free service from a reliable company. According to Dialpad, more than 65 percent of the Fortune 500 are using its technology.

Dialpad is a pure-cloud communications company making it possible to be available on any device, anywhere. The platform it provides allows anyone in your small business to connect and work from anywhere with voice, video and messaging.

Dialpad co-founder Craig Walker said, in a press release announcing the new service, “We’re truly diminishing the need for businesses to use existing phone lines or to be limited to mobile phones, landlines or the need to list multiple phone numbers on their websites and business cards.”

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So What do You Get With Dialpad Free?

Here is the meat and bone of the service.

  • 100 outbound minutes per month
  • Unlimited inbound minutes
  • 100 inbound and outbound SMS messages
  • Free UberConference accounts for all 5 employees

In addition to these free services, you also get Dialpad’s list of calling features. This includes voicemail, call recording, HD calling, professional IVR with extension calling, video calling between Dialpad users, call recording and much more.

How Can You Get It?

If you want to use Dialpad Free, you have to sign up and download the Dialpad app onto your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Once you have it on your device, you use your broadband connection for the service.

The offer also includes a limited time deal to transfer your existing business phone number to Dialpad Free at no cost.

Cloud Communications for Small Businesses

As a pure cloud communications company, Dialpad offers small businesses the flexibility to work from anywhere without sacrificing functionality. Dialpad has native Single-Sign-On with Google G-Suite as well as integration with Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce and LinkedIn.

With Dialpad, you can video conference with all of your employees whether they are working from home locally or in another country. Your employees can connect and collaborate with some of the most popular business applications using their preferred platform without any compatibility issues.

Walker added, “Any app-enabled device immediately becomes an extension of the business’ main number and can be using Dialpad Free within minutes.”

Images: Dialpad

This article, "New Dialpad Free Claims to Kill the Desk Phone But May Kill Your Business Phone Bill Too" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Use Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains to Innovate in Your Small Business

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-12-14 07:30

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been in the news a lot in the recent months. This is mostly because of the record heights that crypto currencies and so-called crypto assets have reached, in terms of valuation and volume. Bitcoin recently breached the $12,000 price mark. While naysayers are predicting a crypto bubble, it seems there is no stopping startups from launching their tech-driven businesses via blockchain.

For businesses, these are exciting times, especially with the enhanced capabilities that fintech startups and service providers can offer, whether you are an enterprise seeking to optimize operations or a small business looking to expand.

Looking beyond the cryptocurrencies, however, what’s more important are the fundamental technologies that underpin these new asset classes, which are their respective blockchains. These are the secure, immutable and distributed cryptographic ledgers that serve as record-keeping mechanism for decentralized tech.

While many blockchain-based startups are focusing on consumer-facing applications, a good number will be useful in a business environment, catering to B2B, B2C and other such transactions.

How Blockchain Leads to Innovation

Here are a few notable ways blockchain-based technologies can help any business become more innovative.

Establish a Self-sovereign Identity

To date, establishing your business as a legal entity would require registering the business either as a proprietorship or as its own corporate entity. This will require “citizenship” in a certain country or sovereignty, which is managed by a government. Some communities would like the ability to establish an entity without having to rely on an external or centralized authority, however.

Here is where a startup called SelfKey will come in. The basic precept is that identity can be established through cryptographic means via blockchain. Users essentially tokenize their identities, paying KEY tokens to trusted notaries to authenticate and verify their identities. Such identification has privacy and granularity — meaning users can share only certain aspects of their information, and not the whole package.

The good thing with SelfKey is that it is valid both for individual users and for businesses seeking to establish their own identity without relying on a centralized authority.

“SelfKey has basic cap table management, and can provide basic corporate governance which allows the startup to do things that are currently burdensome such as opening a bank account,” wrote the founders on the SelfKey whitepaper. “When relying parties onboard a new company, KYC needs to be done not only on the specific company level but also for all significant shareholders at each ownership level above the entity until you reach the ultimate beneficial owners.”

Leverage Distributed Computing Across a Global Network

Cloud computing and virtualization are now mainstays for both small businesses and enterprises, due to their low cost of ownership, scalability and low barrier to entry. However, cloud computing platforms are still owned by centralized entities, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure. An emerging technology from Golem leverages just about any computer across the world in a truly decentralized computing platform.

“Golem connects computers in a peer-to-peer network, enabling both application owners and individual users (“requestors”) to rent resources of other users’ (“providers”) machines. These resources can be used to complete tasks requiring any amount of computation time and capacity,” states the Golem whitepaper.

One key aspect of Golem is monetization, which enables nodes to earn from participating in the network and contributing their processing cycles. While a cloud computing platform can potentially offer businesses some level of savings, a truly decentralized approach might offer more optimal performance-vs-cost, especially since business users are now directly paying the individual node owners. These transactions are done through smart contracts powered by Ethereum.

Manage Private Capitalization Tables and Profit from Secondary Markets

We mentioned capitalization tables under the self-sovereign identity aspect of Streamr. Another startup that focuses on this aspect of building a business is CapchainX, which is a blockchain startup that tokenizes capitalization tables.

“The Crypto token market is valuable because it accelerates liquidity in private markets,” writes Beryl Chavez-Li, founder and CEO of CapchainX. She adds that “[t]he solution for a responsible liquid secondary market is issuing tokens backed by real shares — Crypto Equity,” which is the main concept behind CapchainX.

The company will basically replace paper-based legal, regulatory and operational aspects of maintaining a capitalization table, which makes it easier for startups to manage their company’s shares. This can be particularly useful when accepting institutional funding, since share dilution can be complex to compute. According to Chavez-Li, this also opens up the potential for a secondary market, wherein shareholders can use the tokenized system to buy and sell shares, which can help both improve liquidity and bolster market value.

The Takeaway? Blockchain Technology is Flexible and Businesses Stand to Gain

While it is true that the recent run of coin sales and token sales might be akin to bubble-like growth, one cannot deny the importance that such blockchain-based startups are offering individual and business users alike: value from truly decentralized applications.

Blockchains also now cover a wide variety of industries from fintech to insurtech, edtech and more. This means there is only room for growth, and whether your business is directly dealing with blockchains or crypto assets or not, you will feel the impact one way or another.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Use Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains to Innovate in Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Awesome Insights from Top Business Leaders

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-12-13 16:30

Inbound marketing is an effective strategy when it comes to growing your small business. It helps you attract customers to your site by providing valuable content. From there, you can guide them through your buyer’s journey, eventually converting them into customers.

At the same time, inbound marketing establishes your business as a leader in your niche. More important, it doesn’t require a huge marketing budget or team.

But I’ve learned no matter how successful you become as a business professional, some things don’t change. Nothing beats getting personal advice from those that have insights into their profession that you may lack.

Ten Entrepreneurs Share Small Business Lessons

Here are tips shared by 10 successful entrepreneurs that will help you grow and keep your business afloat.

1. Protect Your Assets

Your email list is one of your most valuable assets when it comes to marketing. As such, Christa Rouse Bishop, lawyer and senior vice  president of communications for Cooperative Energy of Mississippi, encourages small business owners to be vigilant in protecting their computer systems. “If a computer system were to go down because of a virus … key files could be lost or stolen, which could then lead to legal action from clients, customers, and suppliers.”

2. Have Your Small Business Insured

At first, setting up a business insurance and continuity plan doesn’t seem important when you have a scrappy startup. You’re probably more like the Wolf of Wall Street trying to close deals, but insurance is needed for life’s many hiccups.

As a business owner, one of your primary goals is to build trust with your customers. Investing in small business insurance helps you become more credible in their eyes and will help your significant other sleep at night.

At the same time, it protects your business from the unexpected. Greg Reese, President of AmeriEstate Living Trusts, explains that a continuity plan keeps your business running should anything happen to you.

“Having a simple business continuity plan will allow you to choose and authorize a trustee to continue running your business [in case something happens to you],” he said. With these in place, there won’t be any need for lengthy (and expensive) court litigations. At the same time, it will give your family enough time to decide whether to continue your business or sell it.

3. Optimize Your Website for Mobile

One of the biggest inbound marketing mistakes small business owners make is not ensuring that their website is mobile friendly. In today’s competitive online landscape first impressions can make a website visitor bounce and leave your site.

“If your website doesn’t offer a smooth and pleasant experience on mobile screens, you’re missing opportunities,” Aaron Haynes, founder of Fenix Pro, said. “Running your website through Google’s mobile friendly test tool will help you fix any issues on your site and make it more mobile responsive.”

4. Get Ideas from Social Media Groups

Social media groups and social media platforms aren’t just for connecting and networking. They’re a treasure trove of content ideas you can use for a focus group when you have new ideas you want to validate.

“[Social media] groups are a constant source of new topic ideas,” explains Ken McDonald, Chief Growth Officer of TeamSnap. “By simply joining the conversation in several groups, you’ll see what common questions and topics that are relevant to your business.”

5. Simplify Things

When explaining your business to a potential customer, don’t assume that everyone understands your industry lingo. It’s essential you’re able to explain everything about your business and your products as simply as possible. Also make sure to lead with why your product matters and not what it does!

Ariel Chiu, Principal Planner of Wonderstruck Events, recommends writing your advertising copy so that a 10-year-old child can easily understand. This will force you to keep everything simple and free from jargon. “Ask yourself: ‘Would a fourth through ninth grader understand this content and be able to make a conversion decision upon completion?’ If the answer is no, then you need to simplify it.”

6. Don’t be Boring

The last thing you want is material that’s dry and feels like a standard commercial. Eduardo Perez, the founder of Easy Ukulele Songs, encourages small business owners to have fun and genuinely engage with potential customers. “This will increase the average time [spent], and ultimately, the conversions you’re able to capitalize on.”

7. Engage with Your Audience

Roy Surdej, President of Peaches Boutique, says engagement is critical to converting inbound marketing leads into customers. “You can’t just publish or post content and then just walk away,” he said. “If you do that, you’re missing prime opportunities to engage with your audience and convert them.”

8. Tap Into the Power of Influencers

According to Todd Tinker, founder of The Tinker Law Firm: “Most consumers are wired to trust recommendations from authority figures. This is why creating an influencer marketing campaign for your inbound marketing strategy is so effective.”

Reaching out to micro-influencers (influencers with 5,000 to 100,000 followers) is the best way to go. Additionally, Tinker suggests encouraging your customers to advocate for your brands online via social media is an easy way to activate micro influencers.

9. Reward Yourself

Even small business owners need a morale boost. Stefan Gleason, President of Money Metals Exchange, suggests rewarding yourself every now and then as one way to do this.

“Entrepreneurs seldom do this,” Gleason said. “This is why most fall far short of experiencing success and being able to realize their dream of a prosperous life resulting from their small business.”

10. Take Things One Day at a Time

Growing a business can seem time-consuming and overwhelming. If you’re not careful, you can suffer from burnout which will spell disaster for your business.

“The single most important takeaway is to pace yourself,” Adam Steele, founder of Loganix points out. “Don’t bite off too much. Be patient, be authentic, and just keep moving.” Soon, all your hard work will pay off, and you’ll be able to reap the rewards.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Awesome Insights from Top Business Leaders" was first published on Small Business Trends