11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky, Small Biz Daily

1—How to Reach Millennials

According to a survey of Millennials, ages 18-34 conducted by OpenMarket, a leader in enterprise mobile engagement, using SMS, or text messaging, is the “obvious choice for customer engagement, with texting cited as the most preferred communication channel for receiving notifications from businesses.” The Millennials says they prefer text messages from businesses because it enables two-way communication—which provides convenience, speed, and ease of use. Of course the fact that 72% of millennials say they text 10 or more times a day and 31% text more than 50 times a day doesn’t hurt.

The survey, a follow-up to OpenMarket’s first millennial survey earlier this year, reveals more than 83% of Millennials say they open a text within 90 seconds of receiving it and 60% want to be able to text their preferred businesses. They report they’re currently receiving five or fewer messages a week from companies—and 20% say they don’t receive any texts from businesses.

There’s a lot more information in the infographic here.

2—The Dangers of Political Talk

Tonight’s the first presidential debate—which can cause problems at your small business. The great political divide can cause your employees to start debating with one another—which can affect productivity, camaraderie and morale.

How can you avoid this? Here are some tips from Doug Walker, the Manager of HR Services at Insperity, which provides HR and consulting services to businesses.

Separate work life from personal life. Because many Americans work long hours, it is easy to forget the need for boundaries between employees’ personal lives and professional lives. Employees should remember that workplace friendships are different from personal friendships. Workers should be careful about being too outspoken when it comes to their political views, even in cases where they believe coworkers might share some of the same opinions.  Oversharing carries the risk of tainting opportunities for future advancement and alienating coworkers who do not share a similar ideology.

Keep the political gear at home. We advise employees to refrain from hanging campaign gear, such as posters or bumper stickers, in the office. Companies should also urge their employees not to display political materials. In fact, companies should consider banning political gear in all public spaces and in all areas where employees have direct contact with clients and vendors. In most cases, it is best for businesses to avoid taking an official stance on a particular candidate or political issue. Political issues can be polarizing. Taking a public stance could alienate current and future customers or even employees who do not share a similar ideology.

Be aware of office policies. Employees should be aware of any company policies that relate to political activity to ensure they are not breaking any rules. Workers also need to make certain their personal views are not incorrectly misunderstood to be the official company stance.

It is not okay to ask. While it may seem like a good idea to proactively ask a colleague or employee about his or her political stance so as to avoid uncomfortable conversations, the question itself can cause discomfort. In addition, there is also a risk that an employee may believe a future event, such as the failure to obtain a promotion, may somehow be linked to a previous conversation about personal political views.

Set the tone. [Business owners] should remember they often set the tone for the office.

Provide guidance. While a company cannot ban political discussion, you might want to consider asking employees to limit political talk or activity to the lunch hour or work breaks. It is also important to remind staff to respect the views of others.

Be quick to respond. Companies should quickly investigate any employee complaints that may arise, but focus only on the workplace behavior and the impact it may be having on relationships and results and not on the differing political opinions.

Bottom Line. When in doubt, don’t. Because issues like politics and religion can be so emotionally charged, the consequences for an employee and his/her career, as well as for the business, can be significant if one expresses a belief or opinion that varies from others.

3—How to Attract & Keep Top Talent

Talented workers are in high demand, so it’s no wonder attracting them takes a lot of work. And once they’re part of your company, you’ll have your hands full providing the sense of meaning and achievement they need to feel fulfilled at their jobs. One way to do that is to show your appreciation through workplace incentives.

The right incentives help you attract and retain top talent because they go beyond making employees’ jobs easier—they improve their quality of life as well.

Company Folders, an innovative presentation folder printer, has compiled the top 10 workplace benefits offered by big name brand businesses. They include:

  • Offering extra leave or childcare assistance to working parents
  • Increasing paid time off or helping with vacation costs
  • Providing physical and mental health care programs
  • Taking the team on corporate outings
  • Making free snacks or meals available
  • Allowing remote work or flex time
  • Giving away free gifts and services
  • Setting up in-house entertainment

4—State of Small Business Lending: Spotlight on Women Entrepreneurs

Fundera, a marketplace that connects entrepreneurs and small business owners with the lending sources they need, recently released its quarterly report, The State of Online Small Business Lending, which took a more in-depth look at women in the world of small business.

The report looks at questions, such as:

  • When compared to their male counterparts, how eligible are female entrepreneurs for business financing?
  • What sorts of loans do they get, for how much money, and at what rates?
  • Are there substantive differences in categories like credit score, annual revenue, and industry?

In short, do women entrepreneurs have a harder time financing their businesses? You can learn more in this blog.

5—Priorities of Women Entrepreneurs

Speaking of women business owners, Vistaprint, a leading online provider of professional marketing products and services to microbusiness owners, recently announced the results of a new survey focused on women-owned businesses in the U.S. and UK, the issues they face, the tools they need and future trends. The survey shows, that, despite operational challenges, female microbusiness owners still have a positive outlook on the future.

Some survey highlights include:

63% of U.S. women say starting a business allowed them to take control. Most of the women microbusiness owners have fulfilled their goals as a result of starting their own business and are optimistic about the future:

  • 78% would recommend starting a business to someone else
  • 72% believe women today have more opportunities than in previous generations
  • 69% expect more financial success for their businesses in the next year, with 62% of these owners planning to continue this growth over the next five years

Still looking for support. Many of the women business owners are still looking for additional help to grow their businesses. Their biggest challenges include:

  • 52% of the women say managing day-to-day operations is their biggest difficulty
  • 47% say developing new business opportunities is a critical component to their success
  • 39% believe having more networking and mentoring opportunities would help them
  • 35% feel receiving tax incentives or credits would greatly help them succeed

You can download the report here.

6—The DNA of an Entrepreneur

Hiscox, a leading specialty insurer, recently released the findings of its 8th annual DNA of an Entrepreneur report. The survey found that, while U.S. small business owners reported revenue growth (70%), profit (68%) and new customers (73%), 31% believe political instability in America is having a negative impact on their business.

Other findings include:

Funding is “a hurdle” for many small business owners:

  • Bank funding was more difficult for U.S. small business owners to obtain versus last year (17% vs. 13%).
  • 44% of small businesses that were set up within the last four years are drawing on outside sources of income to help fund or develop their businesses. This is especially common for business owners over 40 (54%).

When it comes to government support:

  • 58% say government support has stayed the same (vs. 48% in 2015)
  • 29% say it has improved (down from 34% in 2015)
  • 13% believe support has worsened (vs. 18% in 2015)

What do business owners want from the government?

  • Simpler accounting rules
  • Stimulation of lending
  • Subsidized training and professional development courses
  • Relaxation of employment laws

 Small business owners’ priorities include:

  • More flexibility over working hours (68%)
  • Being in greater control (61%)
  • Ability to work from home/remotely (57%)

Many businesses are taking unnecessary risks by not insuring against events that could pose a real threat to their businesses. The top 5 include:

  • Non-payment by customer (34%)
  • Unforeseen events such as a pandemic or economic crisis (24%)
  • Being sued by a customer (23%)
  • Hacking/cybercrime (21%)
  • Reputational damage (17%)

7—Is Your Tech Ready for the Holidays?

Big retailers are shifting into high gear, getting everything in their businesses ready for the holiday, including IT infrastructure. Since the holiday season is so crucial to most retailers, it’s important you get your IT in order as well. les are continuing to increase year over year in online and mobile.

The folks at BigPanda, an IT alert correlation platform, have compiled an IT Preparedness Checklist so you know what has to be done to get ready. They recommend:

  • Utilizing an IT Monitoring platform that will reduce risk and find structure in unstructured patterns of noisy data
  • Changing auto scale algorithms for the cloud infrastructure
  • Changing auto monitoring thresholds
  • Reviewing monitoring metrics—there may be some human processes to alter
  • You make sure you have the right security team
  • Working with developers—you may need additional support to accommodate peak season

Cool Tools

8—Reinventing Business Printing

HP Inc., a global leader in printing, recently introduced a line of powerful A3 multifunction printers (MFPs) they say is “designed to disrupt the traditional $55 billion A3 copier category.”

Highlights of HP’s A3 MFP technology breakthroughs include:

  • 16 new next-generation HP PageWide and LaserJet platforms, bringing innovation to the copier segment
  • World-class print security across devices, documents and data
  • Advanced monitoring based on cloud and big-data analytics to predict service and supply needs
  • Affordable color to drive adoption and economics

HP says they’re now delivering “the industry’s most advanced lineup of A3 MFP and A4 laser print solutions for the office that reflects the ongoing industry transition to everything as a service and contractual versus transactional sales.”

The single and multifunction devices will have print speeds ranging from 40 ppm to 60 ppm (up to 80 ppm in General Office mode). The HP PageWide Pro devices will be available next spring.

The HP LaserJet Managed MFPs will be available as multifunction devices, with color or monochrome printing and speeds ranging from 22 ppm to 60 ppm. The new LaserJets will have long-life components, fast repair times, and will also be available next spring. .

The company is also introducing HP Smart Device Services, a set of cloud tools and device-based sensing capabilities, designed to enhance the service experience. It monitors and diagnoses many service needs to minimize downtime and cut costs. For example, the service can anticipate parts servicing before the part fails and avoids premature ink and toner replacement.

HP says “print security is a key consideration in the engineering of the new HP A3 MFPs. Customers want to protect their intellectual property and their customers’ confidential information. The HP PageWide and LaserJet Enterprise devices feature industry-leading embedded security features including Sure Start, run-time intrusion detection, and whitelisting, making them the world’s most secure printers. The HP PageWide Pro devices will feature best-in-class security with features such as secure boot and firmware integrity checking.

All the new HP PageWide and LaserJet devices can be used with HP’s security services.

9—Preventing Data Loss

Safetica, a leading provider of data loss prevention (DLP) software with roots in Europe, just launched in North America. Safetica’s DLP software is built for SMBs. Safetica protects files based on how they are used. This contextual approach to DLP makes it easy to configure, install, and manage data in ways that don’t reduce productivity but immediately protect sensitive data.

The solution is designed to be highly intuitive for companies that don’t have large IT staffs, making it easier for businesses to comply with regulations such as HIPAA, SOX and PCI security standards. The software is also easy to manage once installed. Using a cloud-based dashboard interface, managers can monitor how data is accessed and transferred on all local, external, network, and cloud services, company-wide.

It’s important to keep your data secure. Safetica says “87% of employees leave with company data; $7 million is the average cost for one data breach; and 100% of companies share business-related data unsafely.”

The company says there are four unique benefits to using its solution.

  1. Prevents sensitive data from being shared inappropriately or accidentally by using encryption to render files useless to outsiders should they escape via email, laptop, thumb drive, phone, or other device. Safetica Mobile allows businesses to lock and wipe any lost or stolen devices remotely, as well as protect data on BYOD devices.
  2. Safetica can spot risky behaviors before they become risks, potentially saving entire businesses in the process. It is capable of spotting when people become disengaged with a company and are ready to quit and potentially do harmful things, such as stealing sensitive data and taking it to a competitor.
  3. You’ll get alerts so about when and where there are data leaks—even before they happen.
  4. Free support to get up and running: Safetica starts by providing free risk assessments and data audits during an evaluation of the technology to help identify how people are using data and where businesses are most vulnerable.

Pricing starts as low as $46 per endpoint per year.

10—Beacons Don’t Need Smartphones Anymore 

According to Kontakt.io, a leading global Bluetooth beacon provider, beacons shouldn’t have to “rely on smartphones or human interaction to generate value. Their real value lies in the ability to automate processes from start to finish.”

The company just launched Beacon Pro, which brings location-awareness to more industries and devices.

Using this new tech, retailers can identify customers’ favorite routes, create beacon-based loyalty programs and trigger different actions (such as sending an email, opening a door, or switching off the lights etc.).

You can also track items and staff at warehouses, airports or any other space, in real time, fully automatically and from anywhere in the world without smartphones or people on site.  Kontakt.io says their system is three times cheaper than any active RFID solution available now.

11—Enabling Collaboration for Real Estate Agents

HomeASAP, a leader in social media marketing for real estate professionals has introduced Search Alliance, the first marketing platform enabling agents to share resources and work cooperatively. The solution is designed to help real estate agents regain market share of consumer home search web traffic lost to the portals, which now dominate the space.

Search Alliance helps agents and brokers increase their marketing power based on the related business model known as “coopetition”. Coopetition is when market competitors with mutual interests join forces to create new market opportunities.

Shifting consumer mindshare, now owned by portals, back to local agent and broker sites, is a massive uphill battle. Local sites remain geographically constrained by the boundaries of their individual MLSs. And no single agent or broker can match the marketing and technical firepower of the portals—not by themselves.

Using Search Alliance, agents and brokers serving any market, and aligned with any brand, work cooperatively to change the online real estate “game”. The solution solves three critical problems faced by agents when competing for the online consumer: inferior technology, geographically bounded search and being out-marketed by portals.

Search Alliance provides agents with leading-edge technology, including a state-of-the-art website branded to them. Agents then link their websites into the Search Alliance network to form their own national home search platform, eliminating the geographical barrier. Inside the network, consumer traffic flows unrestricted from site-to-site and users search for homes located anywhere.

Currently more than 11,000 agents use Search Alliance. Interested in joining? Go here.