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Four reasons why it's happened, including risks that don't exist and student debt

Cities Where Millennials Want to Work for Small Businesses

It’s generally assumed that millennials are seeking jobs in coastal cities — New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles.

But new data from shows that millennials looking to work for small businesses are actually narrowing their searches toward inland cities.

Cities Where Millennials Want to Work for Small Businesses

In fact, when identifying metro areas where millennials are most often looking for work at small businesses. Oklahoma City topped the job board’s list, not L.A. or New York.

This is the latest crop of data looking at generational trends among job seekers.

Outside of Oklahoma — but not too far away — three Texas cities made Indeed’s top 10 destinations for millennial job seekers. Those hot spots for small business jobs include Houston, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Greensboro and Raleigh, North Carolina, are second and tenth, respectively, on Indeed’s list, too. Indianapolis ranks fourth.

Not all locations are inland, of course. Jacksonville, Florida, cracked the top 5 on Indeed’s list. And San Jose and Riverside/San Bernardino, California, also reached Indeed’s list.

Indeed examines click-thru rates on job ads posted to its site. For this data, it looked at millennial job seekers who clicked on job postings from small businesses. That generates Indeed’s Interest Score.

“We know that millennials are the largest age group in the workforce today,” says Paul Wolfe, Indeed vice president and head of HR. “Recent findings suggest that millennials are desired by small business employers because of the generation’s fresh perspective and technical skills. Additionally, millennials may be attracted to smaller business so they can more directly see the impact that their work contribution has on the company’s success.”

Young Blood, Fresh Takes

So, what’s to glean from this batch of data?

Small businesses — no matter where they are — should never count themselves out of any discussion. Don’t believe in norms, averages or perceptions. For instance, one would assume that millennials would be more attracted by the proverbial bright lights of the bigger cities in the U.S.

Clearly, the cities that millennials are attracted to for small business jobs are among the more trendy cities in the U.S. nowadays.

Millennials add a unique dimension to any business team. Full of drive and unbridled energy, a millennial or two or three could really inject some new perspectives into a company. It gives a company a fresh take.

Image: Indeed

This article, "Millennials Looking for Small Business Jobs Deep in the Heart of Texas and OKC" was first published on Small Business Trends

Can an Offline Computer Be Hacked?

Hacking has become synonymous with today’s digital ecosystem, and whether it is the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or JP Morgan, size, resources or capability are irrelevant if someone wants the information you have badly enough. The breach these organizations experienced is proof. But in these cases, some points of their infrastructure were connected to the internet, which might lead one to ask, can my computer be hacked if it is not connected?

Can an Offline Computer be Hacked?

Technically — as of right now — the answer is no. If you never connect your computer, you are 100 percent safe from hackers on the internet. There is no way someone can hack and retrieve, alter or monitor information without physical access. But there are efforts to overcome this obstacle.  A New York Times article reported about an NSA technology allowing hackers to get into a computer, even if it is not connected and alter the data. But even this technology requires physical access to the computer. According to the Times report, “In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.”

This however is not the only way unconnected computers or smartphones can be accessed or monitored. An article on Business Insider reveals several ways in which this can be achieved. These include electromagnetic radiation spying, power consumption analysis, using a smartphone’s accelerometer as a Key Logger, radio waves that intercept the most secure of networks, using the heat generated by your computer, and accessing data through steel walls.

Most of these techniques are in the research phase carried out by scientists in ideal conditions, and your average hacker will not be able to replicate them. But it highlights the developments that are taking place in this segment.

So What are the Chances These Technologies Will be Used Against a Small Business?

Small business owners want to protect their business data and that of their customers, but how realistic is it for these methods to be used against you? For the vast majority, it is going to be slim to none. This doesn’t mean small businesses will not be targeted, because there are many small businesses that provide specialized services for public and private entities that are high-value targets. So you must protect all your computing devices equally, no matter who you are serving and whether they are connected or not.

Securing Your Mobile Computer

Whether it is a laptop, smartphone or tablet, it is critically important to secure the device so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. But life being what it is, it can get lost, stolen or forgotten, and it is in these moments when it doesn’t matter if a device is connected or not. If the data is on the device, it gives the person or entity that is in possession of it as much time as they need to retrieve it. By making it more difficult to retrieve the data, you have a better chance of taking the necessary measures to counter act the damage the information will cause.

Here are some measures you can take to protect your unconnected device:

  1. Use strong encryption that makes it very hard or almost impossible to access the data. This gives you many options, and if the data is time sensitive it might be useless when the offenders finally decrypt the drive, if they ever do.
  2. Install remote wipe/lock software. As the name implies, this allows you to lock and wipe your device, but it has to be connected to the internet for it to work. If those who stole your device are professionals, the last thing they will do is connect it, so in reality this technology has limitations. But for your average theft, this might be perfectly effective.
  3. Never have important information on your computer. You can use cloud technology to store your data, and retrieve it anytime you want. This means if your computer gets into the wrong hands while you are in transit to that important meeting, you can use any other device to access your data. And if you don’t trust the cloud providers because they have also been hacked, you can create your own cloud for more control.

If the CIA can get hacked, anyone can, and any security expert worth his/her credentials will tell you there is no such thing as being 100 percent secure. This applies to the digital or physical world. The stolen laptop of the Secret Service agent that reportedly had Trump Tower’s floor plans, information about the Hillary Clinton email probe and other national security information is yet one more proof.

Fortunately, there are many solutions in the market place to make it very difficult for anyone to get to your information. And unless you are working on a new prototype that will change the world or hold state secrets, hackers and other criminals will look for easier targets.

Code Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Can a Computer Be Hacked If It’s Not Connected to the Internet?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Digital West has acquired San Luis Obispo, California-based Norcast Telecom Networks, a local data and telecom provider. Farragut Capital Partners made an undisclosed investment in the transaction. Auctus Group Inc advised Digital West on the deal.


CHICAGO and SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., March 22, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Auctus Group, Inc.(, a Chicago based Investment Banking Firm is pleased to announce its role as the exclusive advisor to Digital West in its acquisition of Norcast Telecom with a mezzanine debt and minority equity investment provided by Farragut Capital Partners. The transaction was announced by Reginald McGaugh, Senior Managing Director & Partner of Auctus Group, Inc. “It was truly a pleasure working with the management teams of both companies and meeting everyone’s expectation to complete this transaction,” said Reginald McGaugh.

Digital West Networks Inc. has acquired Norcast Telecom Networks to create what they’re calling the Central Coast’s single largest business infrastructure provider — with about 60 employees and more than 2,500 customers ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. The firms expect to be fully integrated within six months, according to Tim Williams, who will be CEO of the new company. “We were extremely impressed with the team at Auctus Group, Inc. and we look forward to their support for our future acquisitions,” said Williams.

The two companies have worked closely together for more than 10 years — with many of the same customers — and have talked on and off about merging during that time, according to Norcast President Jeff Buckingham. Both companies have about 30 employees and share common values, including a commitment to innovation, fostering win-win relationships and extensive community involvement, he said, adding that the acquisition is a true collaborative effort. Buckingham will become the combined company’s President and Chief Client Officer. Michael Boyer will remain as Chief Operating Officer and Sandy Davis will remain Chief Financial Officer.

Digital West ( was founded in 1999 by Tim Williams, who continues to lead the company today. A decade later, Digital West has expanded across North America and overseas, offering colocation, managing Wide Area Networks, delivering fiber connectivity and providing cloud services.

Norcast Telecom Networks ( is the Central Coast’s Premier Local Data and Telecom provider. We deliver exceptional customer service and customized solutions for all your Business Phone and Internet needs. Our clients benefit from ONE company caring for all aspects of their voice, data, equipment, and service needs. No confusion. No hassle. That’s our promise.

Farragut Capital Partners ( is a leading source of mezzanine and private equity capital for entrepreneurs, business owners, and private equity firms seeking to facilitate growth, acquisitions, recapitalizations, management buy-outs, generational transfers, and other ownership transitions.

Auctus Group, Inc. ( is a lower middle market focused investment banking firm specializing in merger & acquisition advisory, institutional private placements of debt and equity, financial restructuring, valuation, and strategic consulting.

How many business owners have thought: “I want my brand to be very bland so that my company is indistinguishable from anyone else!”

Not one.

A great logo design can be the difference between blending in and standing out from the competition. But while we often recognize the value of a great logo, we don’t always prioritize it.

New business owners often incorrectly believe that a good logo will cost thousands or tens of thousand of dollars.  As a result, they sometimes buy pre-made logos in an online logo store or try a do-it-yourself approach.

In fact, entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who make the mistake of using generic logos- businesses of all sizes sometimes use logo shortcuts, only to find out that it’s even more expensive to rebrand later. After all, memorable logos are 13% more likely to get consumers attention, and 71.6% more likely to get a positive response from consumers. In a world of noise, that can make a big difference.

In certain industries,  generic logos have become extremely problematic. The epidemic of similar fonts, glyphs, and swishy people leaves a weak first impression on customers and is unmemorable. We’ve even talked about the legal and branding dangers of these generic logo symbols in The Logo Store Nightmare: Ready Made Logos Harm Your Business, Even though some of these generic logos may help a person identify the industry itself, the generic logos also detract from the originality and story of your specific company. Generic logos even break the core elements of good logo design: memorable and unique, making them poor choices for any company. In an effort to avoid that, we took a look at four industries to see which ones fall prey to

To give you some perspective on what we’re talking about, let’s look at four industries and the types of generic logos we often see in those industries.

1. Real Estate Generic Logos

Image source: dm243

Many logos in the real estate industry show a house or some buildings with the company name underneath it. It’s like putting the picture of a shoe on the logo of a shoe company!

The colors are usually in serious tones: reds, grays, and dull blues. The logos are literal but people already understand that a real estate company will deal with the buying and selling of houses. When people choose a real estate agency, they assume that! What they don’t know is what makes a real estate company different, whether that is a personal touch or high-quality agents. Real estate companies that use generic elements in their logos completely miss the opportunity to stand out.

You’ve probably seen many variations of the logos above, with different companies names and some stylization. If your logo has those elements, there are probably thousands of other businesses with similar logos. But you are also unlikely to recall any of those companies! When you look at generic house after house, you don’t learn what the company is trying to communicate. However, not every company in the real estate industry has fallen for the generic logo epidemic, some of them do a great job of breaking the boundaries!

The problem is that consumers can’t recall any of those companies. There’s nothing distinguishable about the design.

Not every company in the real estate industry has fallen for the generic logo epidemic, some of them do a great job of breaking the boundaries! We love this one as an example of a strong, unique real estate logo:



2. Finance Generic Logos


While at first glance each logo may look slightly different, most logos in the finance/consulting services industry look very similar. They focus heavily on the company name, often using a serif font in an attempt to show seriousness and trust. While there is some variation in font size, the words are usually stacked and bolded to show emphasis. The symbols don’t add much- they are mostly buildings and graphic lines.

Overall, many logos in this industry end up conveying exactly what people already think: boring, serious, money focused companies. While the seriousness and focus part of the message is usually intentional, a boring logo lends itself to customers not necessarily caring or knowing which company they prefer. Again, the companies all blend together and the first impression is weak.

Smarter financial companies focus their logos around characters or rounder, friendlier fonts (an overall trend in logo design). Many financial companies are taking the opportunity to simplify their logos, including shorter versions of their name or relying more on a symbol to make their brands more memorable. In an industry that screams complication and confusion, simple logos can go a long way. This Brazilian credit card company proves that even financial companies can have simple, memorable logos:


3. Medical Generic Logos


Another industry that suffers from generic logos is the medical industry. From insurance companies to hospitals to private practices and holistic treatment centers, medically-focused companies often end up reusing the same symbols, fonts, and colors.

Blues, reds, and greens are common colors in the medical industry. They often mirror colors that are serious and focused on the human body. But yet again, these colors and font choices seem extremely serious. People already understand that a doctor’s office or insurance company will be focused and professional. When most people are trying to choose a medical provider, they look at the extra steps they take when they provide services, their customer service, kindness, and ability to be calm. Much like the color and font schemes, the traditional symbols don’t help . When every logo in the industry is a variation of one design, it makes it hard to remember which company is which and makes branding look like an afterthought.

The medical industry is slowly starting to evolve their branding. Smart medical companies that want to stand out are thinking more about their branding.

4. Technology Generic Logos


Even the most innovative industry struggles when it comes to logo design.

Many technology companies struggle to break out of the circular, swooshy glyph and name combination- much like many companies in the finance/consulting industry.  Not only are many tech companies’ symbols almost identical, but the colors tend to trend towards greens and blues in an attempt to look progressive, serious, and scientific. But even more shocking is the lack of variety in font choices. Almost every font is dramatically spaced out. Many of the company names are in all caps, and the fonts are traditional with little creativity. The stack of the symbols and fonts is formulaic too, making the companies seem inaccessible and unimaginative.

Smart startups have become more creative when it comes to logo design. They opting for friendlier, more creative logos as they try to communicate the innovation behind their company- not just their ability to leverage technology well. By using different fonts and playing with different images, innovative technology companies are able to present themselves as interesting and engaging to all types of consumers. We love Github’s logo as an example of playfulness and innovation:



Let us know in the comments if you have any specific pet peeves with generic logos in other industries. Clearly, it’s important to invest early in an original, well-designed logo- especially if you operate in any of these industries. Be memorable, and let your company’s voice shine through its brand.

If you are ready to create a quality logo for your business that inspires trust and confidence in your brand and helps your business stand out from the competition, consider enlisting the help of our network of over 200,000 creatives to give you great options. crowdSPRING’s Logo Design Service offers a step-by-step creative brief that helps you outline your company’s needs and allows you to select from over 100 entries on average.


30 eBay Alternatives

Online auction sites are becoming increasingly competitive, evolving alongside advancing technology and providing a larger number of more sophisticated platforms for online sellers. Founded as early as 1995 when it was known as AuctionWeb, eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) was one of the first online selling and buying portals and, for years, held the monopoly in digital auctions. Subsequent years have seen the online auction market diversify, with new auction sites competing in eBay’s space, offering consumers a wider choice of digital auctions on which to sell and buy products.

Technological advances have contributed to the rise and evolution of this part of the eCommerce marketplace. eBay, for example, has been quick to jump on the growing demand for Artificial Intelligence (AI), embedding AI technology, to help sellers become more competitive. eBay’s AI solutions involve identifying gaps in product inventories, alerting sellers when they need to stock up on a particular product. eBay’s evolving features have proven to be of benefit to sellers, creating some legitimate success stories. However, despite eBay being at the forefront of the increasingly competitive online auction market, online sellers should always consider alternative solutions.

eBay Alternatives

Here are 30 alternatives to eBay that offer an online auction trading platform for online sellers.


uBid is a well-known name in online auctions. This popular auction site was established in 1997, making it one of the oldest digital auctions in existence. uBid has more than five million registered members, who sell and buy products from 25 categories.

uBid sellers benefit from the site’s selling features. Placing products in uBid Deals, Auctions Closing Soon, Trending Deals and Mega Auctions, ensures items benefit from maximum exposure.


MadBid is a U.K.-based auction site. Selling itself on how buyers can enjoy an 89% discount on certain listings and being the “number 1 discount auction site on the internet”, MadBid certainly pulls in the buyers, which is great for anyone selling on the site. Asides discounts of up to 89% to entice sellers, other key features of MadBid include safe payment portals, benefiting both the seller and buyer, and support through phone, live chat and email.  Though seller should be aware, only brand new, sealed products can be sold on MadBid, meaning second-hand goods can’t be listed.


Marketing itself as an “online community”, AuctionZip has more than 25,000 professional auctioneers and more than two million bidders monthly, making it one of the biggest online auctions in the world.  Ecommerce vendors can create a free auctioneer account, list auctions for $10 each, learn about how to run online auctions and reach more than two million bidders each month.


eBid has been buying and selling online since 1999. Millions of sellers use eBid to sell their products at auction in more than 13,300 categories. Some of the main features of eBid that make it attractive to online sellers, are its free online store setup, free listings, low sale fees ranging from 0% to 3%, ease of use and human, non-robotic support. Sellers also benefit from a full email and in-app notification system, meaning they get notifications of their eBid activity onto their mobile device.


Listia is an interesting online auction site, as instead of vendors listing products for cash, they list them for credits. Sellers can use the credits they earn from auctioning their items to bid on other items. The bidder with the largest number of credits wins the item. The principle highlight of this credit-based system is that auctioneers can turn their clutter into something they really want. Listers signing up to Listia also benefit from immediately earning 1,000 free credits.

Pickles Auctions

Pickles Auctions is the biggest online auction company in Australia, boasting hundreds of listing in predominantly vehicle and IT equipment categories. Being a specialized auction site that deals chiefly in vehicles, Pickles Auctions provides a quality platform for the sale of a vehicle. Vendors simply need to contact their local branch for an inspection time, the site then provides them with an estimated price, and the item then gets put into the next available auction.


ShopGoodwill is a non-profit auction site that lists and sells products to raise funds for people living with disabilities. The auction is run in collaboration with Goodwill stores throughout the United States, enabling Goodwill sellers to list and auction items online and generate money for  the Goodwill charity.

The SaleRoom

The SaleRoom is the largest digital platform for fine art and antique auctions. Auctioneers around the world can benefit from having their auction and its items listed on the site where buyers can bid remotely at live auctions.

Auction Maxx

Auction Maxx is a well-established auction site, which was founded in Canada in 2012. With over 10,000 registered users, sellers on Auction Maxx can reach a high volume of buyers. One of the key features of Auction Maxx which benefits sellers, is that the site is committed to constantly promoting the items for sale through a number of advertising channels, meaning items gain maximum exposure.

Online Auction

Proudly asserting itself as being the place where “buyers and seller unite”, Online Auction is a popular online auction portal for sellers and buyers. One feature of Online Auction that stands out for sellers is its no final value fees policy, giving vendors every penny of price the item reached in auction. Another favourable feature to sellers on this site, is its time-saving listing templates, meaning items can be listed quickly and efficiently.

Atomic Mall

Atomic Mall is one of the biggest online auction sites in existence, attracting thousands of members. One of the highlights of selling on Atomic Mall is the zero listings fee sellers enjoy. Sellers can also list their items in auction or for a fixed price. The site also accepts a range of payment options, including Bitcoin, PayPal and Visa.


Bonanza was voted by more than 12,000 sellers as the best place to sell online in 2016. Setting up a ‘selling booth’ on the site is fairly straightforward, the only drawback is that sellers must have garnered ten positive feedback comments before they are able to direct checkout options to their booth.


Established in 1996, WebStore is another long-running internet auction. Perhaps the biggest attraction of WebStore for those selling online is the fact it doesn’t charge any fees for membership, selling, or anything else. The site also prides itself on having quality safety policies in place, giving both sellers and buyers peace of mind.


eCrater is an online marketplace based in California. Sellers can open a 100% free online store on eCrater and enjoy no monthly subscription costs or seller verification fees. The site is straightforward to use and offers a variety of payment options.

Charity Auctions Today

Charity Auctions Today is a powerful online auction platform that proudly asserts it makes it easy to raise money online. This auction software site is trusted by more than 4500 clients, making it easy for charities to generate mobile and online auctions and start making money. As well as offering affordable pricing for auction software, sellers aren’t locked into contracts on this site, and can take advantage of live phone and 24/7 email support.

Hip eCommerce

Hip eCommerce was formerly known as Bidstart. The site specialises in three collectible markets, comic books, post cards and stamps. The aim of the site is to connect buyers and sellers, so they can share their passion and grow their hobby. Like eBay, sellers list their collectable items, and buyers bid on the products. Sellers have to pay a fee for selling items of Hip eCommerce.


24Fundraiser is another online auction software site that enables charities and non-profits to run online, mobile and silent auctions without an auctioneer. Since founding in 2007, 24Fundraiser has been providing charities with fully-customisable, innovative mobile auctions, which are easy to navigate.


QuiBids is a well-established online auction, which was founded in 2009 in Oklahoma. Sellers can list items in live auctions and buyers an bid on  wide range of products. All products sold on QuiBids must be brand new, factory sealed and under full warranty, meaning this isn’t a platform for unwanted, second-hand goods.


Shpock is a “boot sale” app and is the abbreviation of ‘SHop in your POCKet’. The platform was launched by two Austrian entrepreneurs. It encourages sellers to list unwanted but ‘beautiful things’ to buyers in their local area. Shpock is easy to users, sellers simply have to upload photos of an item with a description, then watch the bids roll in. Items can either be collected in person or shipped.

Salvage Sale

SalvageSale is a popular online auction site for the sale of equipment, transportation, materials and consumer goods. Sellers have to register for an account and then list their item in an auction. With more than 150,000 registered buyers and having processed over three million bids, SalvageSale is an effective platform for selling transportation and equipment goods.


LiveAuctioneers is a leading live auction marketplace, which connects sellers of fine art, antiques and collectibles with buyers. Thousands of live auctions are broadcast on the site each year on behalf of galleries, sellers, dealers, and auction houses. Sellers can take advantage of a live format auction, which helps deliver immediate results. The site also includes LiveAuctioneers’ tools and features, where users can track and analyse their performance.

Bidding For Good

Bidding For Good is an online charity auction portal which has ran over 21,000 charity auctions and sold more than 1.5 million products. The site encourages sellers to run their own auction and raise money for a school or a non-profit organisation. Sellers benefit from event management, access to more than 450,000 online bidders and collaboration with dedicated auction event experts. is an international auction and online marketplace community, which is active in 80 countries around the world. Launched in 1999, CQout is a long-established digital selling and buying portal. Sellers can place items in a huge range of categories. The site is committed to offering sellers a secure way to sell products. With no listing fees and competitive final value bid fees, CQout is a cheaper option than eBay. The auction site also has bulk uploading tools for easy listing and an automatic relisting option.


CoPart was founded as far back as 1982. The vehicle auction site has more than 75,000 vehicles on sale each day. CoPart offers a fast, safe and easy way to sell a used, unwanted or damaged vehicle. Available for sellers and buyers in the US, sellers simply have to fill out a form or ring the phone number, CoPart will then give an instant offer, the car then goes into the auction, with payment and pickup happening in often as little as 48 hours.

Autorola was founded in 2001 and is one of biggest online auction platforms for car sales in the world. Autorola currently sells in the US, Australia, Turkey and in 17 European countries. Car dealers can list their vehicle on Autorola, joining more than 70,000 registered dealers around the world.

Venmore Auctions

Venmore Auctions is a UK-based property auction site, which enables property vendors to sell their property at auction. The site offers a free, no obligation marketing property appraisal from one of their property auction experts. Venmore Auctions have offices in Liverpool, United Kingdom.


iOffer is a San Francisco-based online marketplace, which connects millions of buyers and sellers around the world. iOffer provides an easy-to-navigate platform for sellers to list their items in a diverse range of categories. Fees are competitive for selling on the site. Payments are made securely via PayPal.


OLX is a Nigeria-based online auction site. With more than a thousand-active listing on the site and hundreds of members using the auction, OLX is one of Africa’s largest digital auction platforms. OLX sellers have the choice of either having an OLX expert sell their items for them for a small fee, or using the ‘sell it yourself’ platform, which is free to use.

Roseberys London

Roseberys has been operating in London for more than 25 years. This privately-owned auction house specialises in antiques and fine art. Its team of antiques and art specialists and consultants help sellers of art connect with buyers. Sellers can put single items or full collections on Roseberys’ auctions.

Auction Ohio

Auction Ohio was founded in 1985 and conducts more than 1000 auctions every year. Sellers can list items in a broad range of auctions, ranging from real estate and antiques to office equipment and precious metals, and a whole host of other categories. Auction Ohio offers sellers the option of whether to sell their items from their own home or at an auction house. The site also handles all communications with buyers, including the collection of proceeds, which are then paid to the seller, minus commission and applicable fees.

Auction Paddle Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "30 eBay Alternatives Beckon at These Online Auction Sites" was first published on Small Business Trends

The NCAA has the Elite Eight, we’ve got our Subject Line Slam Dunk.

Here at VerticalResponse we love a little friendly competition. We’ve also got an intrepid group of sports fans with office brackets, fantasy basketball leagues and collegiate allegiances who won’t say no to a contest. So in honor of March Madness 2017, we decided to hold our own little playoff bracket. We’re A/B testing eight subject lines, knockout tournament style, to find out which one is best. Vote for your favorite, and the winning subject line will be featured in an upcoming email — along with a not-to-be-missed offer.

A or B? C or D? Which clever catchphrase will be our champion? You decide.

Vote for your Subject Line Slam Dunk favorites:   

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© 2017, Amber Humphrey. All rights reserved.

The post Announcing the Subject Line Slam Dunk contest appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Small business ventures have to fight each day with main street merchants to stay in the race. This competition would’ve had no meaning with the exclusion of technology because you would’ve been eliminated even before you had said “Ready, steady, go.”

Technology is the vital tool that helps to level the playing field between the small business ventures and the giants in the market. Armed simply with a tablet/mobile along with a few specific apps, you can do a fair amount of work from the very comfort of your drawing room.

How about embracing such tech trends in the best possible way to maximize efficiency in your workplace and increase revenue? Take a peek at this list of top 8 tech secrets that you can use to strengthen your small business in the year 2017.

Best Tech trends for 2017

#1. Take your business to the cloud

For workplace management tasks, many small business ventures find it very difficult to stay organized in their approach to specific projects.

That’s because they still juggle between combinations of spreadsheets, papers and physical calendars to get things done within the workplace starting from appointments to meetings. Result’s chaos.

It’s like taking an analog approach in a digital world. Problems are bound to occur. Utilizing cloud services can help to alleviate many of these issues.

A host of inexpensive cloud-based services help in:

  • Project management,
  • Customer scheduling,
  • Time tracking,
  • Billing,
  • Signups

Opt for such a service and you’ll see you’ll definitely reap the benefits of your investment. Metaphorically, it can be said that by opting for a cloud, you’ll take your business to cloud number 9.

#2. Pricy POS solutions are no solutions at all; DITCH them

Simple smartphones and tablets with free/premium apps are more than capable of replacing POS (point of service) systems these days.

Anyone from your local coffee shop to the guy who sells football merchandise down the road can utilize these mobile inexpensive POS solutions to accept major credit/debit cards for payments.

Example: Take a peek at this app: Square.

Square POS can accept major credit/debit cards with the help of a Square reader. By implementing square app, you’ll just breeze through your transactions.

#3. Inculcate loyalty and reward programs

You must remember that a repeat or a regular customer has a higher lifetime worth than that of a new customer. Hence, it is mighty important for you to invest in customer loyalty.

Now you can say that only big and giant companies has the resources to afford these types of loyalty reward programs which may include things like extra discounts, gift cards or even physical gifts. But that was in the past. Times have changed.

Plenty of loyalty programs are available on the internet (like FiveStars) that you can use to create loyalty and other related programs at affordable rates.

These programs do have a high ROI (return on investment) especially because they help to bring customers back to your platform. Remember loyalty cannot be bought, it has to be earned. These reward programs can help you with that.

#4. Use collaboration tools for communications

Collaboration is the key to success, especially in businesses where it’s mighty important to associate with one another to meet definite deadlines.

This becomes very difficult especially when your entire business communication relies on conventional communication methods like emails, phone calls, messages etc. It creates nothing less than a chaos because hardly anything stays organized among a long chain of calls and emails.

This difficulty level goes up by a level or two especially when certain employees are transferred to different work locations.

You can use technology (such as a cloud based business phone system) to help you out in this matter and keep everything in order.

A cloud based business phone system enables you to connect your mobile phones/tablets to the phone system such that everyone stays connected to the system irrespective of their geographical locations.

This enables your employees to answer their phones at ease wherever they are, whenever they want to speak with their colleagues or even clients without having the need to be present at the desk. This is more organized approach which can benefit your business tremendously.

#5. Analyze big data

If you aren’t aware of the huge amount of data that’s flowing through your business each day, you are probably missing out on valuable information that could’ve been used to enhance your business in the best possible way.

With the help of big data, you’ll be able to use analytics tools that can sort through the entire data and give you valuable feedbacks based on which you may be able to make your campaigns more effective and nullify your losses in the best possible way.

#6. Use inexpensive tools for your company’s backend productivity

HR software and traditional accounting software was quite expensive in the past and required a stout technical infrastructure. But nowadays, even small business owners can take the help of easy-to-use cloud apps to run efficiently with limited resources.

Certain handy and inexpensive tools can be used by to address particular needs like invoicing and accounting. By using these tools, you will certainly be able to increase your backend productivity effectively and efficiently.

#7. Take help of marketing / sales plug-ins

By using a simple plug-in app, businesses might be able to turn their basic Gmail services into something even more powerful.

Simple plug-in apps like Streak can be used to turn Gmail into something like a customer relationship management tool. This will help businesses to track active leads, customers, deals along with sales pipelines the inbox.

#8. Use social networking platforms to great effects

Social networking platforms can be an ace in the hole for you if you can use it the right way. A simple example can be Twitter. Through Twitter, you’ll be able to target the right audience and do marketing at its best.

So you see small businesses can utilize numerous apps or tools to stay at par with the big giants. Be smart and spend smart. Some day you’ll definitely achieve that seemingly-impossible goal of yours.

File in batches, IRS scratches. The IRS “DIF score” formula for choosing returns to audit is a closely-guarded secret. I’m pretty sure Schedule C returns get you auditability points. I believe that filing three years of six-figure returns together late can really run up the score. A Tax Court case released yesterday only fuels my suspicions. From Judge Lauber’s opinion:

Petitioners filed delinquent Forms 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for 2006, 2007, and 2008; they filed a timely Form 1040 for 2009. They included in each of these returns a Schedule C for the dental practice. For 2006 they reported gross receipts for the dental practice of $398,864, returns and allowances of $5,523, and total expenses of $392,108, for a net profit of $1,233.

Oh, I think a dental practice that nets about 50 cents an hour for a full-time practitioner may also attract IRS attention.

It turns out our couple had some serious recordkeeping issues, to the point that the IRS examiner “reconstructed” their income based on bank accounts and other third-party records. This led to some adjustments, but nothing enormous. The expenses, they were a different matter. As the judge explained, it’s up to taxpayers to document deductions:

The taxpayer bears the burden of proving that reported business expenses were actually incurred and were “ordinary and necessary.” Sec. 162(a); Rule 142(a). The taxpayer also bears the burden of substantiating expenses underlying his claimed deductions by keeping and producing records sufficient to enable the IRS to determine the correct tax liability.

Our couple struggled here. One of the larger deduction items was an “NOL carryforward” claimed for each year. This too attracted IRS attention, and not in a way that helped the taxpayers. From the Tax Court (I shorten the couple’s last name to “Z.”

Petitioners reported an NOL carryforward for each year. Dr. Z testified that the NOLs were attributable to a condominium unit she purchased in 2002 from a failing dental practice. Unless an exception applies, an NOL must first be carried back 2 years and then carried forward 20 years. Sec. 172(b)(1)(A). If a taxpayer claims an NOL deduction, he must file with his return “a concise statement setting forth * * * all material and pertinent facts relative thereto, including a detailed schedule showing the computation” of the NOL deduction. Sec. 1.172-1(c), Income Tax Regs.

How did that go?

Petitioners have satisfied none of these requirements. They did not attach to any of their returns a concise statement including material and relevant facts or a detailed schedule showing computation of the NOL amount. They have not explained how a condominium could give rise to an NOL for a dental practice. They did not prove that Dr. Z’s dental practice actually incurred losses before 2006 or (if it did) that the NOL had not previously been carried back. On the latter point the only evidence was Dr. Z’s testimony that the NOLs were reported on petitioners’ prior returns; this was a statement of their position, not proof.

The result? A shutout victory for the IRS.

The Moral? A messy return yields many lessons.

Pay for help if you need help. It sounds like the taxpayers aren’t born bookkeepers. If you run a business and lack the knack for accounting and recordkeeping, hire somebody who has it.

Considering what a hash they made of their tax returns, I suspect they were too thrifty to pay some expensive CPA or EA to help the with their business filing. They could have paid a lot of hourly fees with the $28,000 or so of penalties they ran up.

Don’t claim a net operating loss unless you understand what it is and can produce tax returns and old records to show you have one. If you don’t have good records for the carryforward years, good luck documenting the loss years.

Most of all, file on time. While dental practices generating poverty income may attract IRS attention anyway, filing the returns late in batches is pretty much an engraved invitation to the IRS examiner.

Cite: Zolghadr, T.C. Memo 2017-49.



Today’s Links:

Morgan Scarboro and Nicole Kaeding have news on Multiple Tax Proposals in Minnesota:

With a projected surplus of $1.65 billion, some policymakers in Minnesota want tax reform. Several plans are being discussed in the state legislature, ranging from a $300 million tax cut proposed in the updated budget of Governor Mark Dayton (D) to a $1.35 billion tax cut proposed by House Republicans.

A different sort of debate than we are having in Iowa. But there are similarities:

Minnesota needs broad tax reform. The state currently levies the third highest individual and corporate income tax rates in the country. Its property tax system is unnecessarily complex and burdensome to businesses. The state ranks 46th in our State Business Tax Climate Index.

Iowa’s climate is in 40th place, but Minnesota is significantly worse.


Kay Bell,  Health Savings Accounts’ medical and tax advantages. I’m a believer.

Roger McEowen, Farm-Related Casualty Losses and Involuntary Conversions – Helpful Tax Rules in Times of Distress. “The amount of the deduction for casualty losses is the lesser of the difference between the fair market value before the casualty or theft and the fair market value afterwards, and the amount of the adjusted income tax basis for purposes of determining loss.”

Jason Dinesen, The 4 Choices a Small Business Owner Has When Their Business is No Longer a Side Business. “Many of the business clients I work with are either side businesses, or side businesses that are turning into “real” businesses. I’ve written before about the struggle of taking a side business and turning it into something more.”

Sam Brunson, Update on the Future of Treasury Regulations (Surly Subgroup). “Yesterday, Commissioner Koskinen announced that the IRS was set to begin issuing “subregulatory” guidance again. He didn’t define what he meant by subregulatory, but it probably includes revenue procedures, notices, and revenue rulings, at least.”

Keith Fogg, A Crack in the Glass Ceiling – Victory in a Financial Disability Case (Procedurally Taxing). The IRS has administratively erased a Code provision designed to help repair old tax problems of taxpayers who have lost the ability to manage their affairs. A court case may force the IRS to follow the law. “The facts here follow fairly closely the facts in the case Brockamp v. United States, 519 U.S. 347 (1997), in which another 90 year old gentleman failed to timely file a refund claim and the failure was discovered by his executor after the ordinary statute of limitations had expired.”

Lew Taishoff, THE JERSEY BOUNCE – PART DEUX. “Judge Gustafson, take a bow.”


Kicking to the wrong side of the field? With the house AHCA vote today, Arnold Kling tells us that our health insurance debate isn’t even addressing the real issues. Health Insurance: Where are the Goal Posts?

Megan McArdle, Better Health Care for Less Money? It’s Not Easy. “No government system in the world has actually lowered health-care costs on any sustained basis, absent something like the Greek financial crisis that forces a sudden and drastic reduction in government spending.”

TaxGrrrl,   In Search Of Votes, GOP Makes Changes To Plan To Repeal & Replace Obamacare

Howard Gleckman, The AHCA’s Tax Changes And Transfers Would Benefit The Wealthy, Hurt The Lowest Income Households (TaxVox)

Richard Phillips, GOP Healthcare Bill Cuts Insurance Coverage for Millions to Pay for Tax Cuts for the Wealthy; ITEP State-By-State Estimates (Tax Justice Blog)

Tony Nitti,   In Amended Health Care Bill, GOP Doubles Down On Tax Breaks For The Rich, Reduced Medicaid Funding. “Eliminating unwise and complex tax” = “tax breaks for the rich.”


News from the Profession. Robot Auditors Won’t Have a Problem Giving Clients Bad News (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

What is a Change Management Plan and Why Does Your Small Business Need One?

In order to succeed, businesses must constantly evolve. Companies must constantly reassess and readjust what they’re offering to customers, how they carry out key processes, who’s responsible for what tasks and how they could be improving. Running a business is a constant game of trial and error, and so companies have got to be nimble and be able to adjust to big changes if they want to survive.

Unfortunately, change isn’t always well received. When a business owner decides to bring about a big shift at his or her company, individual stakeholders don’t always react with enthusiasm — and sometimes, these changes don’t work well for the company as a collective.

That’s why businesses should always draft a Change Management Plan to help guide staff members and stakeholders through those rocky transition periods.

What is a Change Management Plan?

Simply put, a Change Management Plan is a working document that spells out activities or roles that will need additional focus during the execute and control stage of a project or noticeable institutional change.

For example, if you’re introducing a new middle manager into your workforce, planning to make staff redundancies, or are preparing to add new steps into a manufacturing process, you are going to cause tremors across your company’s workforce. By drafting a Change Management Plan, you should be able to measure and mitigate any potential resistance or unintentional drawbacks of implementing said changes.

How To Write a Change Management Plan?

Change Management Plans come in two varieties. The first type is designed to measure the impact of an institutional change with a view to ease any necessary transitions. The second type of Change Management Plan is put in place to track progress on particular projects. This type of plan sees change measured against a project baseline — which is generally going to be a detailed outline of a project’s scope, schedule and its budget.

Both types of Change Management Plans have a few basic things in common.

First and foremost, all Change Management Plans must start by demonstrating the reasons for a change — such as addressing performance gaps, emerging technologies or waning consumer activity. Then, a plan must define the scope of recommended changes. You’ll need to outline how you’re reacting to issues, which job roles it could affect or any potential policy or organizational changes. After that, you must identify a series of KPIs that can be used to measure progress and success.

A Change Management Plan must also provide a description of stakeholder support, and will ideally elect a change management team that will be responsible for maintaining constant communication with stakeholders throughout the implementation period of any given change. This list must include all employees, as well as any partner organizations such as suppliers, contractors or major clients.

If you need help writing your first Change Management Plan, there are plenty of templates out there that can help get you started. But at the end of the day, this is a task that all business owners should make a habit of carrying out.

Change is good — but being able to get everybody on the same page and carry out a major transition can make or break even the best company.

Change Management Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What is a Change Management Plan and Why Does Your Small Business Need One?" was first published on Small Business Trends

From cash flow management to easier expense tracking, there are plenty of reasons to use a business credit card for your company’s day-to-day purchases. But beyond the financial management benefits, the best part of these business credit cards has to be the incredible reward offers.

We’ve scoured the latest and greatest business credit card offers for 2017 to help you find the best option with the most savings for your business. Let’s take a look.

1. Ink Business Cash Credit Card

Hands down, the best thing about the Ink Business Cash Credit Card is its 0% introductory APR period . It’s one of the only business credit cards to offer 0% fixed intro APR for the first 12 months on both purchases and balance transfers. (Yes, even balance transfers!) After a one-time transfer fee of 5%, this card can buy you the time you need to generate extra revenue without significant ongoing cost.

At the end of the introductory period, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card’s ongoing APR is still competitive within the market. Even so, savvy business owners will be wise to pay down debts before the end of that period, or shop around to be sure they’re still getting a good deal.
In the meantime, Ink Business Cash cardholders can enjoy 5% cash back on office supplies, cell phone charges, and business internet and phone; along with 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations. Note, though, that these cash back offers are limited to the first $25,000 in combined annual spending.

2. Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Two words: travel rewards.

If your business incurs significant travel expenses, there really is no other card like the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. Partnering with Starwood Preferred’s Starpoints loyalty program, the card offers a close to 4% rewards rate for stays at Westin, St. Regis, W, and Sheraton Hotels, plus rewards transfer opportunities with over 33 different airlines.

Along with outstanding travel rewards, all American Express Business cardholders gain access to the business advice and services provided through the Amex OPEN program. Through this program, cardholders may be eligible for discounts through Amex OPEN merchant partners such as FedEx and Hertz.

Provided you travel frequently— and you pay attention to managing your points and travel bookings in order to maximize your rewards—the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express is an ideal solution. But if you aren’t certain you’ll use the benefits, you may be better off with a more straightforward cash rewards option.

3. SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

You know what kind of expenses your business incurs—so shouldn’t you be the one to decide what kinds of purchases are eligible for rewards? This idea is the basis of the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express, which allows you to choose the spending categories where you’ll earn 3% cash back.

Choose one of Amex’s seven categories—airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising purchases in select media, shipping, or computing purchases—based on your business’s spending habits to earn 3% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per year. In addition, the card offers a flat 5% cash back on purchases from U.S. office supply stores and wireless phone providers.

As with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express is eligible for the same business services, high-quality customer service, and partner discounts from the Amex OPEN program. 

4. Capital One Spark Cash for Business

For business owners who love cash rewards programs but aren’t eager to overthink expense categories, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business is an ideal flat-rate rewards card. Instead of travel bonuses you may not use or narrow rewards categories that don’t necessarily apply to your business needs, this card offers a flat 2% cash back rewards rate—among the highest flat rates for business credit cards.

After the no-fee introductory year, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business does charge a small annual fee of $59. But as long as you’re spending at least $3,000 per year on the card, you’ll make up that amount and then some in cash back.

5. Capital One Spark Classic for Business

For business owners with less than stellar credit, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business provides a great option who need some form of short-term financing as working capital but may struggle to qualify for the business credit cards listed above.

This card is by no means an inexpensive way to carry debt—but for business owners with poor credit, it may still be less costly than the short term loans or lines of credit available. And if you can use the card responsibly and pay down your balance every month, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business is a great way for entrepreneurs to build or repair their credit history in preparation for a lower interest credit card or small business loan.

Getting the Most From Your Credit Card

Regardless of which business credit card offer you choose, remember that the key to getting the most from any credit card offer is sound financial management. To avoid incurring expensive interest that takes away from your rewards savings, make sure you are spending within your business budget and consistently making on-time payments.

As long as you keep to these principles, you’ll not only enjoy great savings and rewards for your everyday business purchases, but you’ll also be building a stronger credit history for your business’s financial future.

The post This Year’s Best Business Credit Card Offers for Entrepreneurs appeared first on

The post This Year’s Best Business Credit Card Offers for Entrepreneurs appeared first on Click for more information about Meredith Wood.

(Reuters) — Small U.S. business online lender Kabbage Inc is in talks to raise a new round of equity funding that could be used for potential acquisitions at a time when many of its peers face funding challenges, people familiar with the matter said.

The move comes as online lenders are increasingly encroaching on the turf of traditional banks. However, growth in the industry has slowed as some online lenders have struggled to offload loans many institutional investors view as risky.

Privately held Kabbage is holding talks with investment firms about raising a few hundred million dollars in the new round, the sources said this week.

Kabbage, based in Atlanta, could not immediately be reached for comment.

One of the acquisition targets under consideration by Kabbage is rival On Deck Capital Inc, which has market capitalization of $321 million, according to one of the sources.

The sources cautioned that no decisions have been taken and asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

New York-based On Deck Capital declined to comment.

Kabbage runs a platform that provides loans to small businesses in minutes. Its existing investors include Reverence Capital Partners, SoftBank Capital, Thomvest Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, BlueRun Ventures, the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, ING, Santander InnoVentures, Scotiabank and TCW/Craton.

Banco Santander SA partnered with Kabbage last year to provide loans to small businesses in Britain, while JPMorgan Chase & Co works with On Deck.

On Deck shares have fallen more than 80 percent since it went public in December 2014. On Deck posted its fifth consecutive quarterly loss last month, and said it had to set aside more money for future losses after determining its calculations in its internal models were off.

As a private company, Kabbage does not report earnings publicly.

Earlier this month, it said it priced the largest asset-backed securitization of small business loans in the online lending industry, packaging and selling $525 million worth of loans to investors. Kabbage said this would allow its volume of lending to exceed $2.7 billion.

On Deck said earlier on Wednesday that it had amended its asset-backed revolving credit facility with Deutsche Bank to extend its maturity date to March 2019 and to increase its borrowing capacity by $52 million, to a total of up to $214 million.

How and Why Your Small Business Should Be Recycling Paper

Chances are, your business goes through a fair amount of paper. Even if you’ve tried to go paperless or cut back on printing hard copies of documents, you likely have some paper products that need to be disposed of.

But instead of just throwing away all of that paper, your business can recycle it. Recycling paper comes with many potential benefits and is relatively easy. Here are some tips for recycling paper in your small business.

Waste Savings

For most individuals and businesses in the U.S., recycling paper isn’t especially difficult. In fact, 96 percent of Americans have access to community curbside pickup or local drop-off recycling facilities that accept paper, according to Paper Recycles.

Of course, curbside pickup services may sometimes come with small fees in exchange for that service. However, if you don’t recycle that paper, your only other option is likely to just throw that paper away. And since your business likely pays for waste removal services as well, that’s where a major recycling benefit comes into play.

In some cases, you may even be able to negotiate a lower fee for your waste management services if you’re able to throw away less waste each week. So if your business goes through a lot of paper, that could lead to significant savings in that particular area.

More Materials for Paper Goods

Once paper is sent to a recycling facility, it can then be used for a variety of different purposes. In fact, paper can be broken down and then used again in more paper products about seven times before the material needs to be processed further.

What that means is that when you recycle, you provide more potential materials for paper goods manufacturers. So if your business uses a lot of paper, it could potentially make a difference in the recycled materials you have access to down the road.

Energy Savings

In addition to the decreased waste and space taken up in landfills, recycling paper can have another major benefit for the environment. Making brand new paper requires more energy than making paper out of recycled paper material.

That is obviously better for the environment, leading to less wasted resources and carbon emissions. And it can also make the process easier on paper manufacturers over the long run.

How to Recycle Paper

As mentioned earlier, the process of recycling paper is usually fairly straightforward. If you have a curbside service available in your neighborhood, then you can sign up or obtain a bin for paper products and simply recycle paper outside your office each week. However, you’ll just want to make sure that you know all the rules and guidelines for what is accepted. For example, some services may only accept things like loose paper while others also accept newspapers and even mixed paper goods.

If you don’t have access to a pickup service, you can also take your paper items to a local recycling facility. Nearly every facility should accept some type of paper goods.

Regardless of which path you decide to take, a business may need to take some more initial steps to set up a recycling program than an individual or household would. So you need to create a process that allows you and your team to easily set aside any paper goods for recycling.

To do this, specify bins around your office, preferably in convenient locations, where people can place various paper goods for recycling. For example, you might have one just for loose paper, one for newspapers and one for mixed paper. Then you can send in those items through the avenue of your choice.

Recycle Bin Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How and Why Your Small Business Should Be Recycling Paper" was first published on Small Business Trends

Obamacare vs Trumpcare, Which is Worse Small Businesses? What About Single Payer?

Health coverage for everyone is a goal that most can agree on, but that is where agreement stops. President Donald Trump is pushing for repeal and replacement of The Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare.

The problem is his American Health Care Act (AHCA) proposal is worse for small businesses and the working classes than the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was. This is why it is also dubbed Ryancare and Obamacare 2.0.

Obamacare vs Trumpcare, Which is Worse Small Businesses?

It reduces coverage and gives the wealthiest tax breaks. This is going in the wrong direction.

SmallBizTrends quoted White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the ACA in a briefing:

Right now there is an uneven playing field. It is those self-employed individuals and small businesses that are paying the penalty for this. They’re the ones who suffer right now. By giving them more options and driving down cost, we’re leveling the playing field.

Because the AHCA benefits the most wealthy at the expense of small businesses and the working class even more than the ACA, we need a different solution.

The single payer system, also referred to as “Medicare for All”, shows the most potential for solving the challenges of providing universal health care.

What Is a Single Payer System?

According to this analysis of the pros and cons of a single payer system:

A single-payer system is an insurance arrangement whereby one party is responsible for paying for the costs of health care and the structure of how much money is collected to pay for the costs incurred.

Medicaid and Medicare are single payer systems. Either the federal or state government would manage health insurance under a single payer system.

Socialized medicine is different because a single payer system only impacts how health care is paid for and not who provides it.

How Does a Public Option Differ from Single Payer?

According to

The “public option” is a single federal insurance plan that would compete with private insurance companies.

Their analysis indicates that some believe a public option would spur competition among insurance companies. Others feel it could compete unfairly, driving insurance companies out of business.

As insurance companies have very strong lobbies, they would probably be able to shape any public option that was implemented. Public option insurance plans are unlikely to drive corporations selling insurance out of business.

Pending “Medicare for All” Alternatives

Single payer health care plans are typically referred to as “Medicare for All”. This is the same type of coverage Bernie Sanders has long advocated.

Ninety-three percent of Americans feel health care is important or very important. But 7 percent do not, and that 7 percent are probably among the youngest and healthiest. If they choose not to participate, costs are higher for everyone else.

Obamacare vs Trumpcare, Which is Worse Small Businesses?

National: Medicare for All: HR676

The House of Representatives introduced The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act on January 24, 2017. It has 65 cosponsors, all Republicans.

Medicare for All alternatives eliminate the employer mandate and penalties imposed by Obamacare. According to the Act linked above:

“The program is funded from existing sources of government revenues for health care by:

  1. increasing personal income taxes on the top 5 percent of income earners
  2. instituting a progressive excise tax on payroll and self-employment income
  3. adding a tax on unearned income
  4. instituting a tax on stock and bond transactions.

Amounts that would have been appropriated for federal public health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), are transferred and appropriated to carry out this bill.”

This video provides an example of how the government would fund “Medicare for All”:

California, Colorado, New York and Vermont on Single Payer

Vermont bailed on single-payer health care when the tax costs to finance it were more than their small state could afford.

Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress may have unintentionally removed the main obstacle preventing California from switching to their version of “Medicare for All”.

California, Colorado and New York have Medicare for All bills pending and many additional states have proposed them. A federal plan is more likely to be financially stable, but harder to pass.

Obamacare vs Trumpcare, Which is Worse Small Businesses?

GOP Plan: American Health Care Act (AHCA)

The main complaint against the AHCA is that it would repeal taxes on the wealthy that the government uses to cover the costs of Obamacare.

Individual and Employer Mandates are abolished under the AHCA according to the video in this post. Comments from the main insurance industry groups indicate concerns over AHCA cuts in Medicaid funding.

Brookings states that repealing ACA taxes will exhaust Medicare Trust funds four years sooner.

Health Care Cost Impacts on Small Business

Uncertainty about what will replace it has brought back debates over the best form of health coverage. It is partially known how Obamacare aka the ACA impacted small business:

American Action Forum (AAF) research finds that Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations are reducing small business (20 to 99 workers) pay by at least $22.6 billion annually. In addition, ACA regulations and rising premiums have reduced employment by more than 350,000 jobs nationwide, with five states losing more than 20,000 jobs.

What small business most definitely does not need is a replacement that costs even more jobs or reduces employee pay even further.

Coverage Many Cannot Afford to Use

We also need to consider affordability as well as coverage. What good is having coverage if you cannot afford to use it because of high deductibles and premiums?

Measuring how many have coverage should include measuring whether they can afford to use it.

Forcing low income workers to pay for insurance does not equate to better health care because doing so may cause them to seek even less medical care than they did before they had to buy it.

Sadly, people who can afford insurance have told me that forcing the poor to pay “their share” so their own premiums are lower is what matters to them.

Subsidies vs ACHA Tax Credit

With subsidies under the ACA, consumers get a stipend to help pay their monthly premiums. It makes insurance more affordable when they need to pay for it.

A tax credit, like that proposed in the AHCA, comes at tax time. It can help mitigate your taxes in the end, but it doesn’t help the monthly affordability.

If you can’t pay your premium, you can’t get health insurance anyway, even if there is a (meager) credit at the end.

Seriously Consider Tiered Coverage

Americans either cannot afford or choose not to prioritize spending what it would take to have universal health care. Vermont did not move forward with their single payer plan because they knew people would not pay the tax rate it required.

Americans pay vastly more for health care than people in other countries. So either we need to find a way to push that cost down or we need to accept more limited insurance plans.

According to this older list of 33 industrialized countries, almost half (16) of them have single payer systems. 9 have two tiered systems which provide limited basic health care and offer more coverage for an additional cost.

Has anyone ever seen a discussion about providing universal emergency health care that only covers injuries and acute illnesses? Making only this mandatory would be vastly more affordable.

Those who can believe in and can afford advanced health care treatments for chronic illnesses could then choose to pay for additional insurance to cover the costs.

Whatever we do, it is clear from statistics such as the graph below that the United States is trailing far behind other countries in getting results from our health care systems.

Obamacare vs Trumpcare, Which is Worse Small Businesses? Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Repealing Obamacare without having an immediate replacement would definitely be unwise. Brookings lays out the proposed alternatives and provides details on what a workable replacement plan should entail.


This article, "Obamacare vs. Trumpcare: What’s the Best Solution for Small Businesses?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Tips to Beat Fatigue for Freelancers

When you’re a freelancer everything about work comes down on your shoulders. You do the creating, the bookkeeping, the press, the marketing and the cleaning up. It’s a heavy load to bear and it can lead to freelance fatigue.

Freelance fatigue is exactly what it sounds like: exhaustion from the need to wear so many hats at once. The pressure to find clients, produce for them, track finances and promote your work can wear you down.

You can beat freelance fatigue with a few changes to your routine. Incorporating systems that work for you and finding time for self-care is the way to recharge yourself. When you’re a freelancer, you need to keep working to keep making money. Don’t let fatigue get in the way of your money!

Tips to Beat Fatigue for Freelancers Self-care

You have to take care of yourself before you can offer your services or expertise to anyone else. Eating right, sleeping enough, and getting at least some exercise and fresh air are just as critical as pitching new clients. After all, what is the point of work if not to create the life you love?

I like to use my lunch break to listen to music I love or to take a walk outside. I live in the American south, so it’s warm pretty much year round here. Getting outside and getting some sun on my face is easy to do. If you’re somewhere that’s dark and cold, think about getting a sunlamp. Take a 15-minute break and stretch.

When you feel your best you do your best work. Scarfing down unhealthy food and sitting all day in front of a screen isn’t the best thing for you. Incorporate real time for self-care and you’ll beat freelance fatigue sooner.


Automating is the best way to make sure that things get done and you don’t have to be the one doing them. You can set up automated things in your personal and business life. Setting your student loans to autopay is a way to ensure you pay them and you’ll probably catch a small break on your interest rate.

Automate everything that you can to take some pressure off. Your payment systems, your email lists, and subscription renewals are great places to start.


This is a tip you’ll hear time and time again from other freelancers. There simply comes a point when you can’t do it all by yourself. It can be hard to reach this point, especially if you think you can’t afford to hire help.

By piling everything on your own plate, you’re only hurting yourself. Your productivity suffers, your burnout rate increases and you’re probably not earning as much as you actually could be.

If you’re putting off outsourcing, take a step back. You can make it work for you. You can outsource the necessary evils in your life (like bookkeeping or accountant work) or you can outsource the minutia, like social media management or virtual assistant work.

Taking at least one time-consuming task off your plate will change your life. I like to think it’s how people felt when the microwave came out: no more sweating over the oven or stove? Just zap this in minutes? Yes, please!

Take On Work You Want to Do

I used to offer social media management as a part of my freelancing packages. It paid well, and there’s always someone who needs help with their social media. I have a steadily growing social media following, and I knew I could put my money where my mouth is.

The only problem was that I hate social media management. Being good at something and enjoying something are two very different things. Spending my time managing other people’s social media left me frustrated and annoyed.

Even though it was work that paid, it wasn’t worth the paycheck. I procrastinated doing the work because I disliked it, and I resented my clients each time they added a new account or referred someone my way to bring me more business.

I eliminated my social media management offerings a few months ago and referred my clients on to someone else. It was a huge load off my shoulders and helped me to feel energized about my freelancing all over again. I remembered why I enjoyed being my own boss, and I focused on finding more work that I actually enjoy. By eliminating the work I didn’t want to do, I had more time to cultivate the work I did want to do.

Freelance fatigue comes for us all at some point, but we don’t have to let it beat us down. We can create the job of our dreams and stay sane at the same time. I’m writing this from my small porch, where I’m getting some sun on my face as I check things off my to-do list. Two points for beating fatigue for me! What do you do when work has you feeling down?

Republished by permission. Original here.

Fatigue Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "4 Tips for Freelancers to Beat Fatigue" was first published on Small Business Trends

If you're musically talented, you already have the potential to make a great entrepreneur. There are plenty of potential business opportunities that let you showcase your musical talents or work in the music industry.
16 Vote(s)

Late payments can create a cascade of problems for small businesses. When a client doesn’t pay on time, a small business owner may have trouble making payroll or paying taxes. The business may even fall behind on its own bills, which will hurt its business credit scores , making it more difficult to borrow in the future. And if a key client defaults, it can cause the business to go under.

Late payments are considered such a serious problem in the UK that the government is appointing a Small Business Commissioner who will be charged with tackling this issue head on. ​​​Nearly  half of the UK’s small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are being paid late, and some 32 percent of those are paying their suppliers late as a result, according to Bacs Payment Schemes Limited (Bacs) . Some are skeptical that a government official can change what the government has called a “culture” of late payments, but it certainly brings national attention to a problem plaguing many small business owners.

Late payments are a serious problem here in the U.S. as well. A recent survey by Fundbox found that 79 percent of business owners surveyed said they cut their own pay when customer payments are slow, and 20 percent cut marketing and growth efforts.

Do you wish the U.S. had an official “payment tsar” dedicated to helping businesses like yours get paid on time? While that may not become a reality, you can take proactive steps to help ensure that slow payments don’t threaten the health of your business. These may include:

Incentivize timely payments.

Offering a small discount—say 2-3% of the amount due—for on-time or early payments can encourage customers to pay more quickly in order to save money. Of course, that discount will affect your margins, but since prompt payment can significantly improve cash flow, it may be well worth it.

Line up a backup.

A line of credit , or a low interest credit card, can help bridge the gap if payments are slow. The key is to get the credit card or line of credit before you need it. The old adage that the best time to get a loan is when you don’t need one isn’t so far from the truth.

Of course, this option is not without risk. If your client doesn’t pay, you will still be responsible for those bills, plus any interest charged.

Factor invoices.

Need to get paid faster but can’t entice a customer with a discount? You may be able to factor your invoices. If you do, you’ll get paid a portion of the invoice up front, and the rest—minus the fee charged by the factoring firm—when the customer pays.

Some invoices can even be factored on a non-recourse basis, which means that if the customer doesn’t pay, you won’t be on the hook for the balance.  Unlike a loan or line of credit, firms that factor invoices are typically most interested in the creditworthiness of your client that owes you money, and may not even check your personal or business credit.

Develop a credit policy.

If you are providing a product and service before your customer pays for it, you are extending a form of credit. Just like a traditional lender would, you’ll want to develop a credit policy and communicate that to your customers. That means deciding when to extend credit, creating a contract that spells out your credit policy and the cost of paying late. It may also make sense to line up and interview collection agencies or attorneys before you need one. In particular, an attorney may have advice on how to minimize this kind of problem.

Check credit.

Did you know you can check the business credit of your current or prospective customers? A pattern of late payments may be a warning sign that you need to get paid up front or look for a more creditworthy customer.

If you have a customer with no business credit history, you may want to require a deposit and collect payments in regular installments. You can also consider reporting your customer’s payments to business credit agencies. This can help them build business credit, and serve as a subtle reminder that they need to pay on time or suffer the consequences.

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There's opportunity in video content to expand your small business online presence. It has to be the right type of content, though. Small business video content has to make people want to watch and keep them watching. That means entertaining them or educating them on something.
16 Vote(s)

By Gary Kaplan

Are you looking for ways to make a few extra dollars? If so, you aren’t alone. Airbnb and other short term rentals are gaining in popularity because of the win-win situation that they offer. Homeowners get to earn extra money from their residence while travelers can find comfortable homelike lodging for a bargain.

However, this is not entirely free income for homeowners. A short-term rental, like all other types of rental, can be taxable income in some circumstances.

The IRS View of a Short-Term Rental

Have you planned to take taxes out of your vacation rental profits? If not, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise in April. The government likes to take its cut of any income we make; short-term property rentals are no exception. When you list your spare bedroom or even a hammock in your yard on popular rental sites, you have become self-employed in the eyes of the law. Any income from these activities is subject to the same taxes you would pay if you were running a business.

This income can add heavily to your tax bill; however, if you play your cards right it may actually reduce your overall tax liability. Short-term rentals offer an additional way to write off certain housing expenses while making extra income on your home.

What Types of Short-Term or Vacation Rental Income Are Taxable?

In theory, almost all income gained from your Airbnb or other rental listing is taxable. If you rent your home for more than 15 days every year, even when they are not consecutive, your rental income will need to be reported on your individual tax return as self-employment income. You will need to pay not just income taxes but also a self-employment tax on this income. If your earnings are sizeable, you may even have to pay estimated quarterly taxes every three months.

Regardless of the amount you earn, there will be a few extra forms to fill out as part of your taxes. If you rent out space in your residence for fifteen or more days a year, you will need to fill out a Schedule C and possible other additional paperwork. These taxes can be sizeable, which is why it is so important to take all of the write-offs available and to talk to your accountant if you fear excessive tax liability.

Why is 15 days the magic number? The IRS Section 280A says that you do not need to pay income taxes on rental income when this income came from a home that you reside in, and when this space is rented for less than 15 days every year.

To muddy the waters further, the definition of what constitutes your residence is counterintuitive. You are considered the resident of a home where you live for more than fourteen days, or 10% of the days that you rent it out—whichever is greater.

This may lead many to wonder if they can hop between two homes while renting them out alternately at steeper short-term prices. It is highly unwise in most situations to try to claim more than one home as a residence, so ask an accountant before going this route.

Tax Breaks for Small-Time Landlords

You may be anxious at the idea of doing extra tax paperwork; however, this paperwork can save you a great deal of money if you play your cards right. There are ways that you can offset the income to declare as little as possible. Renting out a room usually means that you will be paying higher costs for utilities and repairs, so these can be written off.

In addition, other expenses such as supplies (which includes furniture used primarily by rental guests) and cleaning expenses can be deducted. You can also take many of the same tax breaks as long-term landlords, which include mortgage interest and property taxes. Your home may become not just a haven from the outside world, but also a way to save a little of the money you would otherwise pay in taxes.

There is a great deal of math that goes into determining exactly how much of these expenses is deductible. In general, you divide the number of days that the unit is rented every year by the number of days in a year to find the proportion of each bill that can be deductible; multiply the resulting decimal number with the amount of your home expenses to find out how much can be written off.

This is not a task for the uninitiated! Being a successful business owner means doing extra math and getting the help of experts, including a good business accountant. If you qualify for small business taxes as a result of your rental income, it is important to ensure that your tax burden is as low as possible so you can keep most of your hard-earned income.

Good Records Make Good Business

Because the IRS will consider you a small business owner once you list your rental, it is important to keep good records. Some short-term or vacation rental registries, such as AirBnB, will keep records for you, streamlining the processes. Unfortunately these websites also tend to report all income to the IRS, even income that does not qualify for taxes. Even if you rent out your sofa for fourteen or less days, you may get a letter from the IRS asking for clarification.

If this happens, you will be happy (and likely protected from the dreaded audit) if you kept all of the appropriate records. In addition to recording all income and the dates when your home was rented, it is important to record all expenses and save receipts for those expenses you hope to write off. Remaining organized will make your life easier when you file taxes; it will also give you peace of mind knowing you can survive any extra attention from the IRS.

Turning part of your home into a miniature bed and breakfast is a great way to make extra money while meeting new and interesting travelers. Airbnb is just one of many sites making it easy to open your own lucrative “small business” without coming up with a new widget or business plan. It is important to handle the taxes carefully so you pay what you need to—and not a penny more.

About the Author

Post by: Gary Kaplan

Gary Kaplan’s desire for excellence shows in his training, experience, and service he provides as a top rated Boca Raton CPA. He completed his undergraduate degree at Nova Southeastern University. He went on to earn both his Masters in Accounting at Nova Southeastern University and his Masters in the Science of Taxation at Florida International University. Gary has been practicing as a Certified Public Accountant since 1997, attaining his expertise in all aspects of accounting, business, and personal tax and strategic planning. He listens to each client and helps them achieve their own, unique goals. Gary values educating others and giving back to his community: He has served as an Adjunct Professor of Accounting at Florida Atlantic University, and gives accounting presentations at St. Thomas University School of Law. In 2013, Gary Kaplan received his certification for retirement planning and is now a Certified Specialist in Retirement Planning™ (CSRP).

Company: Gary M. Kaplan, C.P.A., P.A.
Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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You should use technology to help you to being more productive. Here is a list of best tools we have found recommended by other business owners like yourself.
17 Vote(s)

From cash flow management to easier expense tracking, there are plenty of reasons to use a business credit card for your company’s day-to-day purchases. But beyond the financial management benefits, the best part of these business credit cards has to be the incredible reward offers.

We’ve scoured the latest and greatest business credit card offers for 2017 to help you find the best option with the most savings for your business. Let’s take a look.

1. Ink Business Cash Credit Card

Hands down, the best thing about the Ink Business Cash Credit Card is its 0% introductory APR period . It’s one of the only business credit cards to offer 0% fixed intro APR for the first 12 months on both purchases and balance transfers. (Yes, even balance transfers!) After a one-time transfer fee of 5%, this card can buy you the time you need to generate extra revenue without significant ongoing cost.

At the end of the introductory period, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card’s ongoing APR is still competitive within the market. Even so, savvy business owners will be wise to pay down debts before the end of that period, or shop around to be sure they’re still getting a good deal.
In the meantime, Ink Business Cash cardholders can enjoy 5% cash back on office supplies, cell phone charges, and business internet and phone; along with 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations. Note, though, that these cash back offers are limited to the first $25,000 in combined annual spending.

2. Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Two words: travel rewards.

If your business incurs significant travel expenses, there really is no other card like the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. Partnering with Starwood Preferred’s Starpoints loyalty program, the card offers a close to 4% rewards rate for stays at Westin, St. Regis, W, and Sheraton Hotels, plus rewards transfer opportunities with over 33 different airlines.

Along with outstanding travel rewards, all American Express Business cardholders gain access to the business advice and services provided through the Amex OPEN program. Through this program, cardholders may be eligible for discounts through Amex OPEN merchant partners such as FedEx and Hertz.

Provided you travel frequently— and you pay attention to managing your points and travel bookings in order to maximize your rewards—the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express is an ideal solution. But if you aren’t certain you’ll use the benefits, you may be better off with a more straightforward cash rewards option.

3. SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

You know what kind of expenses your business incurs—so shouldn’t you be the one to decide what kinds of purchases are eligible for rewards? This idea is the basis of the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express, which allows you to choose the spending categories where you’ll earn 3% cash back.

Choose one of Amex’s seven categories—airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising purchases in select media, shipping, or computing purchases—based on your business’s spending habits to earn 3% cash back on up to $50,000 in purchases per year. In addition, the card offers a flat 5% cash back on purchases from U.S. office supply stores and wireless phone providers.

As with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express is eligible for the same business services, high-quality customer service, and partner discounts from the Amex OPEN program. 

4. Capital One Spark Cash for Business

For business owners who love cash rewards programs but aren’t eager to overthink expense categories, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business is an ideal flat-rate rewards card. Instead of travel bonuses you may not use or narrow rewards categories that don’t necessarily apply to your business needs, this card offers a flat 2% cash back rewards rate—among the highest flat rates for business credit cards.

After the no-fee introductory year, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business does charge a small annual fee of $59. But as long as you’re spending at least $3,000 per year on the card, you’ll make up that amount and then some in cash back.

5. Capital One Spark Classic for Business

For business owners with less than stellar credit, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business provides a great option who need some form of short-term financing as working capital but may struggle to qualify for the business credit cards listed above.

This card is by no means an inexpensive way to carry debt—but for business owners with poor credit, it may still be less costly than the short term loans or lines of credit available. And if you can use the card responsibly and pay down your balance every month, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business is a great way for entrepreneurs to build or repair their credit history in preparation for a lower interest credit card or small business loan.

Getting the Most From Your Credit Card

Regardless of which business credit card offer you choose, remember that the key to getting the most from any credit card offer is sound financial management. To avoid incurring expensive interest that takes away from your rewards savings, make sure you are spending within your business budget and consistently making on-time payments.

As long as you keep to these principles, you’ll not only enjoy great savings and rewards for your everyday business purchases, but you’ll also be building a stronger credit history for your business’s financial future.

The post This Year’s Best Business Credit Card Offers for Entrepreneurs appeared first on

The post This Year’s Best Business Credit Card Offers for Entrepreneurs appeared first on Click for more information about Meredith Wood.

From cash flow management to easier expense tracking, there are plenty of reasons to use a business credit card for your company’s day to day purchases. But beyond the financial management benefits, the best part of these business credit cards has to be the incredible reward offers.

We’ve scoured the latest and greatest business credit card offers for 2017 to help you find the best option with the most savings for your business. Let’s take a look.

1. Ink Business Cash Credit Card

Hands down, the best thing about the Ink Business Cash Credit Card is its 0% introductory APR period . It’s one of the only business credit cards to offer 0% fixed intro APR for the first 12 months on both purchases and balance transfers. Yes, even balance transfers! After a one-time transfer fee of 5%, this card can buy you the time you need to generate that extra revenue without significant ongoing cost.

At the end of that introductory period, the Ink Business Cash Credit Card’s ongoing APR is still competitive within the market. Even so, savvy business owners will be wise to pay down debts before the end of that period or shop around to be sure they’re still getting a good deal.
In the meantime, Ink Business Cash cardholders can enjoy 5% cash back on office supplies, cell phone charges, and business internet and phone; along with 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations. Note, though, that these cash back offers are limited to the first $25,000 in combined annual spending.

2. Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Two words: travel rewards.

If your business incurs significant travel expenses, there really is no other card like the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. Partnering with Starwood Preferred’s Starpoints loyalty program, the card offers a close to 4% rewards rate for stays at Westin, St. Regis, W, and Sheraton Hotels, plus rewards transfer opportunities with over 33 different airlines.

Along with outstanding travel rewards, all American Express Business cardholders gain access to the business advice and services provided through the Amex OPEN program. Through this program, cardholders may be eligible for discounts through Amex OPEN merchant partners such as FedEx and Hertz.

Provided you travel frequently— and you pay attention to managing your points and travel bookings in order to maximize your rewards—the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express is an ideal solution. But if you aren’t certain you’ll use the benefits, you may be better off with a more straightforward cash rewards option.

3. SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express

You know what kind of expenses your business incurs—so shouldn’t you be the one to decide what kinds of purchases are eligible for rewards? This idea is the basis of the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express, which allows you to choose the spending categories where you’ll earn 3% cash back.

Choose one from Amex’s seven categories—airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising purchases in select media, shipping, or computing purchases—based on your business’s spending habits to earn 3% cash back on up to $50K in purchases per year. In addition, the card offers a flat 5% cash back on purchases from U.S. office supply stores and wireless phone providers.

As with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express is eligible for the same business services, high-quality customer service, and partner discounts from the Amex OPEN program. 

4. Capital One Spark Cash for Business

For business owners who love cash rewards programs but aren’t eager to overthink expense categories, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business is an ideal flat-rate rewards card. Instead of travel bonuses you may not use or narrow rewards categories that don’t necessarily apply to your business needs, this card offers a flat 2% cash back rewards rate—among the highest flat rates for business credit cards.

After the no-fee introductory year, the Capital One Spark Cash for Business does charge a small annual fee of $59. But as long as you’re spending at least $3,000 per year on the card, you’ll make up that amount and then some in cash back.

5. Capital One Spark Classic for Business

For business owners with less than stellar credit, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business provides a great option who need some form of short-term financing as working capital but may struggle to qualify for the business credit cards listed above.

This card is by no means an inexpensive way to carry debt—but for business owners with poor credit, it may still be less costly than the short term loans or lines of credit available. And if you can use the card responsibly and pay down your balance every month, the Capital One Spark Classic for Business is a great way for entrepreneurs to build or repair their credit history in preparation for a lower interest credit card or small business loan.

Regardless of which business credit card offer you choose, remember that the key to getting the most from these credit card offers is sound financial management. To avoid incurring expensive interest that takes away from your rewards savings, make sure you are spending within your business budget and consistently making on-time payments. As long as you keep to these principles, you’ll not only enjoy great savings and rewards for your everyday business purchases, but you’ll also be building a stronger credit history for your business’s financial future.

The post The Best Business Credit Card Offers for 2017 appeared first on

The post The Best Business Credit Card Offers for 2017 appeared first on Click for more information about Meredith Wood.

SimpliSafe - A Customer Profile Example

What does your perfect client look like? Male or female? What age? Does he or she have kids?

All these factors affect the decisions people make. If you fail to profile your customer, you fail to understand that individual’s decision-making process.

You cannot target your marketing at everyone because not everyone needs your product badly enough. Developing a customer profile lets you narrow your marketing, so it appeals to people who have an urgent need for your products.

Business users need the flexibility to accommodate changes in working practices, so SimpliSafe’s DIY modular security system is a good fit.

SimpliSafe – A Customer Profile Example

SimpliSafe sells a wireless security system. A home or small business alarm system is a substantial investment, but an essential one for companies. Every business or home owner could use it, but only a few homeowners consider it an important purchase.

The SimpliSafe Product Range

SimpliSafe sells a range of modular security system components. These include cameras, glass breakage sensors, movement sensors and door opening sensors. The sensors all connect wirelessly to a control unit, which is connected to a cellular phone network and dials out to the SimpliSafe monitoring center if a sensor is activated.

Customers can order system components separately to produce their own customized system, or they can order preconfigured systems such as the one below.

SimpliSafe - A Customer Profile Example

The SimpliSafe system can be used as a local alarm, with a siren. However, it is best used with a monthly monitoring contract, which will also allow customers to monitor cameras and sensors from a smartphone using a free Android or iOS app.

SimpliSafe’s Unique Features

SimpliSafe’s system is designed so customers can install it themselves without any drilling or screwing. This makes it perfect for anyone renting an apartment or room where tenants are forbidden from drilling walls and door frames.

The monitoring contract is a monthly renewable one, rather than the minimum 36-month contract other companies typically demand. This means you can change your address without losing money. You can also take the system with you and reinstall it at your new address because components are fixed with sticky pads instead of screws.

SimpliSafe’s Customer Profile

SimpliSafe’s typical customer regards a security system as essential, often as a result of property crime in the neighborhood. Most clients are male with slightly above average earnings, and they prefer to base buying decisions on their own research rather than being overly impressed by brand names. The typical customer has children who have left home.

Buyers of SimpliSafe’s system fall into two categories, switchers and new buyers. Switchers are changing from a competitor’s product. New buyers are new to the home security market.

SimpliSafe’s Market Positioning

SimpliSafe’s appeal lies in its simplicity and reliability, together with value for money and there being no need for a long-term monitoring contract.

The SimpliSafe low setup cost appeals to buyers who have multiple demands on their income. The monthly renewable monitoring contract removes perceived risk, as does the 100-night money-back guarantee.

System portability is very attractive to families with college-age offspring because it lets parents provide sons daughters with security that can move with them from college room to apartment.

SimpliSafe’s customers value the alerts to their cell phone and the flexibility of a system that can notify them of unauthorized access to gun safes and liquor cabinets.

Take Aways

One of the first points to hit you on SimpliSafe’s website is the company saying who their system is unsuitable for. When the company makes exclusions in this way, it creates trust because it seems to be turning away profitable business. Narrowing your target market makes your product more suitable for that market. It is better to be a perfect match for part of the market than a mediocre match for every buyer.

Third party reviews like this SimpliSafe review add credibility to any product, so get your product into the hands of review sites. The SimpliSafe Facebook page is valuable as well, in relaying trust and reliability to potential buyers.

You need to know you the right people are seeing your marketing materials. If you understand those who buy your products, you can target your marketing materials at them, which costs less than pay and spray marketing.

Profile Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Developing Your Customer Profile – A Success Story" was first published on Small Business Trends

Business Sales Tips from the Top-Selling Girl Scout

Want to increase your business’s sales? You could probably learn a thing or two about perseverance in the sales process from a 15-year-old Girl Scout in Oklahoma.

Katie Francis has sold more than 100, 100 boxes of Girl Scout cookies since joining her current troupe seven years ago, making her the top seller in the whole country.

Business Sales Tips from the Top-Selling Girl Scout

And she has some tips for entrepreneurs and anyone who’s looking to sell more. According to Francis, the most important ingredients to making sales are time, commitment and asking everyone you see.

You can learn even more business sales tips from this top-selling Girl Scout in the video below.

From CNN:

“A lot of people will say no to cookies throughout the year,” says the pint-sized snack maven, but “you’ve got to keep on moving and keep on getting those yeses.”

Girl Scout cookies are pretty irresistible to a lot of buyers. But that doesn’t mean Francis is any stranger roadblocks in her sales efforts. The important part is that she keeps going and keeps asking more people to get to those who say yes.

And that’s a lesson that you can apply to your small business as well.

Girl Scouts Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Girl Scout Shares Ingredients for Making More Sales" was first published on Small Business Trends

Autobooks, the Detroit-based startup spun out of Billhighway in 2015, has closed on a $5.5 million Series A funding round. The investment was led by Pittsburgh-based Draper Triangle, with participation from CU Solutions Group, Baird Capital, Detroit Venture Partners, and Invest Michigan.

Autobooks’s software is designed to be integrated with online banking platforms to serve small businesses, which CEO Steve Robert says can often be overlooked by larger financial institutions. The businesses Autobooks targets are left in a bind where they’re too small to catch the full attention of big banks, and too complex for... Read more »

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Are YouTube Videos Slowing Down Your Website?

While slow loading pages might have no impact on your business’s mobile rankings, it definitely has an impact on how your customers interact with your website. In most cases, a slow loading page ends up turning away potential customers.

While answering a question during a Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout as to whether YouTube embeds can slow a site’s loading time and reduce its Google speed score, Google’s John Mueller said that it might. Google doesn’t make exceptions for YouTube, AdSense or other embeds that they run versus competitors or third-party companies, Mueller added. But he said YouTube shouldn’t be slowing things down too much since YouTube players are well optimized.

Are YouTube Videos Slowing Down Your Website?

Back in June 2016, Google introduced a Test My Site with Google free tool to check website performance. The tool is pretty easy to use. You just need to type in your website address and you will receive a score. You can also download a complete report that suggests ways you can improve your site’s performance.

Google followed up on their Test My Site with Google tool with the Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP project to make mobile pages much faster.

In a nutshell, AMP is a stripped-down form of HTML that allows pages to be designed for fast loading. The concept is already being used by leading publishers around the world, including CNN, Forbes, NFL, The Financial Times, CBS News and The New York Times, among many others.

YouTube Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Are YouTube Videos Slowing Down Your Website?" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Youth Orchestras of San Antonio started as San Antonio’s first community-wide youth orchestra in 1949. Today, having seen exceptional nonprofit growth, more than 1,800 young people participate in the YOSA experience.

With three different programs, which include an orchestra program, a school partnership program and a summer camp program, YOSA aims to change kids’ lives through music.

A customer of PaySimple since 2016, YOSA is a great example of a
business that has grown their business using technology, community involvement and flexible planning.

I had the opportunity to talk with Brandon, the Executive Director of YOSA, about what he’s learned along the way growing a local business and expanding its reach and offerings. In the five years that he’s been involved with the organization, they have seen tremendous growth.


What do you like most about working for YOSA?

There are so many things, it’s a neat culture and we are a small shop so everything we do is a true team effort. It can be a lot of work, but when you get to look back and see the accomplishments of the young musicians, they are inspiring. We try to open up a sense of possibility to them. For example, we give them the opportunity to perform together in great venues. I remember a kid that walked out on the stage at one of our venues and his eyes were so big and he had a big smile and I said, “Are you okay?” He said, “Yeah, I’ve seen the San Antonio Symphony play out here and now I’m playing here.”

How have you seen the business change over time?

We have changed quite a bit. When I came in five years ago, we only had five orchestras and now we have nine.  In the last six to seven years the organization has seen tremendous growth in the number of young musicians we have been able to serve. As an example, 10 years ago we were serving about 430 young musicians altogether through all of our programs—today we are reaching over 3000.

What is fueling that growth and how do you reach new young people?

We are offering some new programs and that’s part of it. One example is our school partnerships program that we are implementing this year called “YOSA Invitational” where we invite 16 high school and middle school bands and orchestras to come to the premier concert venue in town and perform on stage for 45 minutes. The best part is it’s free to them and for us it means we’ve reached 1000 new students that will be involved in that program.

The other thing that’s helped us grow so quickly is that our music faculty is fantastic. We have a dedicated full-time Music Director. They’ve put together a plan to have all the orchestras and kids move up through the ranks and advance. That structure and that enthusiasm from our Music Director has been a big part of our success.

How have you used PaySimple to improve your processes during this growth?

We use PaySimple’s payment forms pretty extensively in a number of ways:

  • Tuition associated with our programs
  • Selling tickets at events (what’s really cool is that with those items you can make them look nice with photos rather than just being a line item on a web page)
  • Single and one-time items

They are extremely easy to implement. We also have been using recurring payments to collect tuition, which has been a big help because our customers can sign up with credit card, debit card or their checking accounts.

What advice would you offer to others who want to grow their businesses?

I can offer some reflection on how our growth came in—some of it was planned and some of it wasn’t. We wanted to grow the programs but never knew how large the programs were going to be until we started the audition process. We’d place kids and they’d show up on the first day. Over the last five years we’ve decided to change that and opened the flood gates to get as many kids involved as possible and now we’ve been catching up and learning how to deal with that growth. So, my advice is to be open and creative about how your growth actually happens and what works.

Hopefully growth will come and you will have some sort of plan, if you can implement a process for dealing with the growth, then you’ll be able to start planning for the future.

What’s one thing you wish your family and friends knew about running an organization?

I have really strong family and friend support who understand the odd hours and the weird stresses that you have to deal with, so I’d just want them to know how much that support network is appreciated.

Where to next?

We are actually launching a feasibility study to explore some funding options for finding our own rehearsal venue. We want to centralize our operations into one facility where we can have rehearsal space and administrative space as well, so I would love to see YOSA going down the path of completing a capital campaign and having a centralized facility.


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The post How a San Antonio Nonprofit Catapulted Their Growth appeared first on PaySimple Blog.

New Update Introduces the Animoto Square Video Format Aimed at Small Businesses

Designed partially so small businesses and their marketing departments can compete with bigger budget firms and utilize the online and mobile space more effectively, the social media video sharing company Animoto has launched a square format for its Marketing Video Builder.

Animoto Square Video Format Targets Mobile News Feeds

The Animoto square video format enables marketers and small businesses to better utilize Facebook and Instagram with a technology designed to allow videos to stand out more on these platforms. Like the name suggests, square video is shot in a box format to bring the results in line with the best practices of leaders in the social media space like Facebook and Instagram. When it comes to increasingly important components like the mobile news feed, these square videos provide 78 percent more screen space than the other option, landscape videos.

Animoto responded with the update to its Marketing Video Builder after Facebook recommended brands start swapping out their 16:9 aspect ratios for 1:1 ratios that are more square and designed specifically for mobile. Adweek reports that, in one study, the new square format outperforms its predecessor by 54 percent when measuring view through rates for the first ten seconds of a video.  The same study also found that people are 67 percent more likely to watch a square video over the landscape version because of the increased screen space.

“Communicating with video on social networks is quickly becoming mandatory for businesses of all sizes, particularly on Facebook as they rapidly move towards creating a ‘video-first’ user experience,” said Brad Jefferson, CEO and co-founder of Animoto.  “By making it easy for businesses and marketers without professional skills or big budgets to create great looking videos in square format — a format that is proven to get more views and better engagement on Facebook’s mobile newsfeed, where over 90 percent of Facebook consumption happens — we are helping businesses create the type of thumb-stopping, high performing content that, until today, was once only available to big brands.”

Animoto ’s Marketing Video Builder is designed to create video content for that market segment termed a video-first world. Facebook CEO Mark  Zuckerberg has used the phrase to describe a trend whereby he sees video at the heart of all the apps and services people use in the near future. Animoto ’s  Marketing Video Builder includes other features like pre-built storyboards and a drag and drop interface.

The company has locations in San Francisco and New York City.

Image: Animoto

This article, "Animoto Update Targets Small Business With Square Video Capability" was first published on Small Business Trends

7 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky



1—Hispanic Small Business Owners are Significantly More Optimistic

Owners of Hispanic small businesses are incredibly optimistic about the year to come—much more so than their non-Hispanic counterparts, according to the inaugural Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight. They are significantly more hopeful about revenue and hiring plans in 2017—which, as the fastest-growing segment of the small business sector, cements their roles as a critical driver of local economies and growth.

The study, which focuses on the aspirations and pain points of Hispanic small business owners across the country, reveals:

  • 71% of Hispanic entrepreneurs expect their revenues to increase in 2017, 20 percentage points higher than that of non-Hispanic respondents (51%).
  • More than half of Hispanic entrepreneurs plan to hire more employees over the next 12 months, compared to one-quarter of non-Hispanic small business owners.
  • 76% predict business growth over the next five years, compared with 55% of non-Hispanic small business owners.

“For our community of Hispanic small business owners, the American dream of prosperity through hard work is alive, real and inspiring,” says Elizabeth Romero, Small Business Central Division executive, Bank of America. “They see opportunity for themselves, as well as their families, and are leveraging personal networks and communities to help them realize their dreams. Even in the face of the same challenges and economic concerns that affect all small business owners, they are proving to be not only resilient, but incredibly bullish about their future plans and prospects for success.”

If you’d like an in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s Hispanic small business owners, read the 2017 Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight.

There are many more details in the infographic below.



2—Creating Brand Advocates

Our friends at JitBit tell you how.

What if you could build an army of sales of reps for your business, for free? What if each sales person had a massive influence over your target audience, and regularly shared positive information about the stuff you sell?

A powerful formula for passive leads, sales and revenue. But, how do you get there? Two words: brand advocates.

These people are the bedrock of your business. Highly satisfied customers who scream your company’s name from the mountain tops without being incentivized to do so. Brand advocates are twice as valuable as your average customers, and 90% will write something about their purchase experiences. Considering 92% of people trust the recommendations of people they know, it’s clear how big of an impact advocates can have on your bottom line.

While advocacy is the driving force behind 20-50% of all purchases, there is still a massive advocacy gap. In the U.S., over 80% of companies are not using advocates in their marketing strategy, and 58% don’t even know who their advocates are! This gap creates a huge opportunity for most businesses, no matter what industry you’re in.

But, who are your brand advocates? Where do they share information online? How do you build an army of advocates that will sell your stuff without being asked or paid to do so?

Check out the infographic below, which covers the who, what, where, how and why of brand advocacy.

brand advocates


3—St. Patrick’s Day is Only 51 Weeks Away

I know we just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s never too early to prepare for next year’s holiday. One of the coolest promotions I heard about came from Clover, which sponsored the Food Truck Park at the Savannah, Georgia’s St. Patrick’s Day festival. The event usually draws around half a million and for the first time ever the food trucks and the Savannah downtown business association (SBDA) were able to accept cashless payments.

Since cash is always in short supply at events like this, the ability to take cashless payments is game changer. If your city doesn’t have St. Patrick’s Day festivities, you might talk to your local chamber or business association about creating some. A look at these 2016 numbers from the First Data SpendTrend Report shows restaurant sales in Savannah increased for a 10-day period around the holiday. Transactions at bars in Savannah in 2016 were up 24% over average sales and 42% on the weekend after the holiday.

This year, instead of festival goers having to carry cash around with them, they purchased 21+ wristbands using their debit and credit cards via First Data’s Clover Point of Sale solutions. You can read more about it here.


4—Mobile Ads

The mobile ad business is booming. So how do SMBs compete with the infrastructure and scale of a Facebook when it comes to applying data and insight to their mobile advertising strategies?  StartApp democratizes social and mobile data, and enables apps without the infrastructure or the scale to compete with Facebook.

SmartApp CTO and cofounder Ran Avidan explains, “One of the biggest challenges that small publishers and businesses face on mobile today is the amount of user data locked in so-called ‘walled gardens’ like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Each of these companies has an incredibly large user base with the infrastructure to collect and analyze bulk amounts of user data. Beyond just collecting the data, each of these companies also uses analysis and insights to their advantage to stay at the top of the marketplace by creating extremely personalized and hyper-relevant user experiences that keep customer interest and build customer loyalty.

“At StartApp, we aim to democratize access to mobile data so that small businesses and publishers can have access to the data they need to optimize apps and products that are competitive in today’s market. Our database of over 1 billion mobile users gives small businesses insights into a global audience across a variety of channels, including our network of over 300,000 mobile apps that are active on our ad platform and SODA, our social data platform. SODA enables partners to share small pieces of the mobile data puzzle that they have received from their users. This raw data is analyzed in real-time, as opposed to other aggregative platforms, and then combined with the raw data shared by all our SODA partners and our database of SDK partners. Once analyzed, the newly processed data is made available to partners, giving them a more complete data puzzle for a mobile user.

“With this complete data puzzle, social app publishers can offer more dynamic and tailored experiences for every user, giving them the kind of mobile experience they have come to expect from today’s social media. Mobile marketers are also better able to target campaigns on a more granular user level, helping them focus their campaigns only on the highest-value users from the most relevant mobile traffic sources. To use a specific example, one of our partners, Bel Media, increased their meaningful user engagement rate in their WeMeet dating app by 17% after 3-months with the platform and also saw a 30% increase in their users’ time-in-app.

“StartApp doesn’t collect any personal identifiable information, as each user data profile is built on the advertising ID or IDFA level. In addition, partners only have access to the final processed data so any raw user data is protected.”


Quick Links 5—U.S. Consumption (Best chart ever!)

This is one of the coolest things ever. has created a real-time view of consumption in the U.S. For instance, last night (9:30 pm Pacific time, 12:30 am Eastern time), in 4 minutes $15,000 worth of sex toys, $470,000 of beer and 13,500 Dunkin Donuts were sold.

6—DIY Websites

Do you have what it takes to build your own website? Learn about best practices. And read the reviews of DIY website building companies so you can make a more informed choice.


Cool Tools 7—Data Solutions

Radius , a leading business-to-business predictive marketing platform, recently added Radius Data Stewardship to its solutions. Radius Data Stewardship gives marketers “access to the highest quality data for deriving precise insights that expand visibility into new and existing markets, effectively informing decisions for campaign planning and more accurately predicting and driving pipeline growth.”

According to Radius, recent research finds only 70-75% of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Marketing Automation Technology (MAT) data is accurate. For many businesses, this equates to tens of thousands, if not millions of inaccurate records. Faulty data delivers sub-optimal insights, leading to ineffective results across pipeline. As marketers continue to adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) based systems, this data problem will become increasingly important to solve, since the strength of any AI-based system is directly related to the underlying data. Left alone, inaccurate and incomplete data hinders revenue growth, regardless of any AI-system introduced.

Radius Data Stewardship allows customers to leverage the best foundational data available for all marketing and sales activities. Radius Data Stewardship analyzes the overall health of internal ecosystems and identifies within CRM and MAT systems duplicate records, records no longer in business, incomplete records and additional information relevant to businesses—leveraging the over 450 attributes Radius tracks.

More information about additional services from Radius can be found here.


The post How to Create Brand Advocates, Should You Build Your Own Website, Real-Time Consumer Consumption and Other Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

New York-based Lynkos, an all-in-one business networking platform, has secured $2.5 million in seed funding. The backers included Inforcorp’s IC Ventures and Logitech Investments.


New York, New York – March 15, 2017 — Lynkos, an all-in-one business solution that is already being used by over 2.2 million businesses across the globe, has secured $2.5M in Seed funding for its platform to manage and empower companies to grow their business internationally.

The company assembled a prominent group of investors, including representatives from Inforcorp’s IC Ventures, Logitech Investments and a shortlist of angel investors that include Richard Rogers, Michele Santo and Sam Ross-Skinner.

Straight out of beta Lynkos’ platform is used across 224 countries and 900+ industries. The company aims to become the next up-and-coming unicorn by streamlining one of the most dreaded and stressful parts of running a company: gaining new business. To achieve this, Lynkos works as an all-in-one solution, facilitating companies to grow their business through every step of the sales funnel: from networking, to submitting proposals, securing projects, sending payments, and maintaining these relationships through the enterprise-focused social platform which includes news feeds and connections.

“Our partners have extensive experience aiding companies with their big-picture goal” mentioned Federico Cella, Founder and CEO of Lynkos in reference to the newly formed Advisory Board that includes IC Ventures’ partners Gabriel Colla (President, Infocorp) and Eduardo Mangarelli (Director of Technology for Latin America, Microsoft). “With our new funding round, we’re excited to continue building on our mission to become the premier platform for B2B networking and ultimately connect every potential B2B customer worldwide.”

After you set up your profile, Lynkos uses algorithms to match you with the correct companies you’re looking for. You can place requests of what service your business needs, and the platform automatically scans through millions of businesses, after which you will automatically start receiving quotes from the most qualified suppliers.

Features/functionalities of Lynkos’ platform include:
Generate new leads by connecting with businesses that consume your products & services.
Strengthen customer service and retain loyalty by facilitating communication and transparency through every step.
Mobile app available on both iOS and Android.
Gain visibility and improve your company ranking within your industry.
Create lists of companies, export them with full contact details or integrate them with 3rd party apps.
Submit, review, and approve proposals for new business.
Manage the flow of client relations, assign employees to tasks, see their status, submit reviews, and boost communication with clients through an integrated CRM system.

“These guys are up to something big. They are setting up ways for small businesses to connect with each other through vendor-client relationships, and thorough tests, pivots and driven by their passion they are starting to gain traction and unveiling a business model with endless potential. Lynkos’ B2B network is like a top-of-funnel on auto pilot for the integrated CRM.” said Richard Rogers, investor and Director at Dominion Funds. “The list of global social ecosystems is still open and B2B is always an interesting space to be in. I know that Federico and his team will turn the world upside down to find the way to make it happen. Lynkos is already widely used and will continue to evolve and expand at a rapid, yet smart pace.”

Lynkos has a free option providing the core experience, however several pricing tiers range from $19.95 to $139.95 per month, depending each company’s needs within the quantity of leads and analytics, as well as the depth of the CRM, email marketing and data exporting features.

For more information on Lynkos visit

About Lynkos
Lynkos is a business network, with +2.2M businesses in 224 countries and +900 industries. Contact details, blog posts, social activity, team members, connections, customer reviews and much more is consolidated from multiple sources into each business profile. Businesses can connect with each other, offer and request product and services, or just use our network as a top-of-funnel leads for the integrated free CRM. Our mission is to connect global business, enabling businesses to target, find and contact every potential B2B customer worldwide.

NEW YORK (AP) — The big snowstorm in the U.S. Midwest and East last week was a respite for some small business owners, after a generally mild winter that has nipped into the revenue of many companies and forced them to rethink their cold-weather strategies. Retailers who sell winter clothing or snow shovels have had […]

Small Government For Small Business? The Facts About the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017 So Far

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) has introduced The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017 aimed at streamlining and improving the regulatory process for American small business.

Co-sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Jim Risch, chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the bill seeks to prioritize the needs of small businesses with passage of any new regulations that might impact them.

“Small businesses are responsible for nearly two-thirds of the job growth in America, so it is important that Washington fully analyzes regulatory impacts on small businesses before a rule is finalized,” said Lankford in a release from his office on the new bill.

“This bill is desperately needed because federal agencies frequently use loopholes in the process to avoid the full economic analysis of a proposed regulation on small businesses. The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act will ensure that the needs and priorities of small business are fully taken into account early in the rule making process.”

What’s Driving The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017?

According to a recent National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Problems and Priorities (PDF) report unreasonable government regulations are the second largest problem facing small businesses. The new bill would make government agencies analyze how regulations being passed impact small businesses.

It would also close loopholes the bill’s champions claim exist in the existing Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) and Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act (SBREFA).

Legislators claim regulatory agencies routinely use these loopholes to get around laws already in place to protect small businesses from over regulation.

Some of these supposed loopholes include considering only the direct economic impacts of a regulation, exempting IRS regulations from consideration and allowing agencies to declare a regulation to have no economic compact with requiring any detailed analysis.

“Washington bureaucrats don’t fully understand the degree to which new regulations increase costs and uncertainty in the business world,”claims Risch in the release announcing the new bill. “We need stronger controls to limit what D.C. agencies can do to stifle growth, and this bill will ensure appropriate analysis occurs before a new regulation is implemented.”

The importance of small business to the American economy can’t be overstated. For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration reports there are 28 million small enterprises in the United States accounting for 54 percent of the sales in the U.S. Small businesses also occupy 20 to 34 million square feet of commercial space representing 50 percent of the total commercial space available in the U.S.

So supporters believe the new legislation will positively impact not just small business owners but the U.S. economy in general. And those sponsors believe this will lead to broad bi-partisan support.

“We need to pick up eight Democrats for this bill to be considered on the floor, and we are confident that once Senator Lankford’s colleagues on the other side of the aisle see that we are finally addressing small business concerns, they will sign on,” Lankford spokesman D.J. Jordan, told Small Business Trends.

“Senator Lankford’s goal over the next few weeks is to pick up as many democrats as possible and we hope to have far more than just the eight needed.”



Image: Sen. James Lankford

This article, "Lankford Pushes Flexibility Act to Limit Small Business Regulation" was first published on Small Business Trends

One of the biggest and most befuddling challenges for global companies of every size is creating and maintaining a future-proof workforce. As automation and AI render formerly useful employees redundant, leaders looking to remain competitive in a rapidly changing business landscape need to hire and retain employees with future-proof skills that benefit their organizations for years to come.

6 Future-Proof Skills Your Next Hire Needs

The End of Creative Destruction?

For the global workforce, the stark, uncompromising reality is this: over the coming decades, untold millions of jobs will be lost to automation, artificial intelligence, and process efficiency. Increasingly, the carnage will affect formerly "safe" skilled laborers and professional workers with university degrees and advanced certifications.

In the past, technological innovation spurred creative destruction. Even as obsolete jobs disappeared, new, technology-driven positions took their place.

But there's reason to believe that, going forward, the increasingly rapid pace of technological advancement will produce more destruction and less creativity.

"Will technology create enough new jobs that advancing technology itself can't do? Unlikely," writes Ed Hess, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post. "We are talking about a major societal challenge [and] the future of work in the United States and the world. And we as a society are not prepared. Many of us as individuals are not prepared."

Be Careful What You Wish For

For employers, maintaining or increasing output with fewer employees sounds like a dream come true, especially in light of persistently sluggish productivity growth. (In a characteristically excellent report, the Wall Street Journal explains why poor productivity growth is bad for the broader economy.)

They shouldn't get too cocky, though. A world in which productivity growth is self-reinforcing – where human workers aren't needed to create, supervise, and troubleshoot non-human production components – is a long way off. For the foreseeable future, highly skilled employees will be the backbone of the technology-driven workplace.

To complicate matters further, the composition of the set of ideal employee skills is changing nearly as fast as technology itself.

Employers serious about preparing for the next phase of tech-driven disruption need to think beyond the near term. They must ask, what skills and competencies will remain relevant five years from now? Ten years hence?

These are future-proof skills. Though there's no way to completely eliminate future risk, filling open positions with future-proof candidates certainly reduces your chances of being caught flat-footed by unexpected developments.

Sounds like a straightforward proposition. But the devil is in the details. Future-proof skills are in distressingly short supply. That's one of the many factors contributing to the worsening talent shortage in the U.S. and elsewhere. Important as it is, future-proofing alone can't rectify the talent shortage – as Karen Schwartz of CraftForce astutely points out, that requires a multi-pronged approach.

6 Key Future-Proof Skills

What do the key employee skills of the future look like?

In Hess's new book, Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age, co-written with Katherine Ludwig, he argues that many future-proof skills are examples of emotional intelligence (EI) or higher-order thinking.

"Humans will be needed to do those tasks that require higher-order critical thinking, innovation, creativity, [and] high emotional engagement with other humans," writes Hess, adding that "trade skills requiring real-time problem solving and manual dexterity," will also remain in vogue.

Importantly, he argues that "[p]rofessional jobs that don't require higher-order thinking and problem solving skills or high emotional engagement will be automated."

Here's a look at six of the top future-proof skills your next hire needs to have (or be willing to learn).

#1. Multicultural Fluency

According to The Global Leadership Forecast 2014|2015a massive survey by DDI and The Conference Board, CEOs prize cultural competency over any other soft skill.

That's because the business world is more globalized than ever before. No matter where you site your home office, your team is virtually certain to collaborate with vendors and clients in other countries – very likely on other continents.

And, thanks to cheap, lightning-fast communications, even modestly sized companies can and do build global workforces with ease. Your employees need to be comfortable working with colleagues from a dizzying variety of backgrounds and cultures – and to see those differences as sources of strength and opportunity, not division or distraction.

#2. Multigenerational Comfort

As lifespans increase and healthy employees put off retirement longer, the workforce is four generations deep for perhaps the first time in history.

Millennials, Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, and pre-Boomers (sometimes known as the Silent Generation) need to coexist comfortably and work toward common organizational goals, stylistic differences and generational touchstones notwithstanding. Leaders can't tolerate young employees who roll their eyes at older colleagues (very often their superiors), nor should they countenance inflexible senior employees who take a "my way or the highway" approach to their younger peers.

When hiring, look for candidates with clear generational awareness. If you're hiring from an older candidate pool, your top choices should exhibit willingness to adopt new collaborative methods and leverage social tools to remain productive and relevant. Likewise, screen younger candidates for maturity, receptiveness to feedback, and openness to relying on evidence-based processes despite their perceived stodginess.

#3. Effective Interpersonal Communication

This is one future-proof skill that's not going out of fashion anytime soon. Jamelah Henry, a U.S.-based business coach, identifies three key benefits of clear, open, effective interpersonal communication in the workplace:

  • Overcoming diversity-driven impediments to productivity (see #1)
  • Fostering closer collaboration within and between teams
  • Boosting employee morale, which has crucial knock-on effects for productivity and work quality

As Henry indicates, effective communication is a two-way street. Leaders who rightly expect their subordinates to communicate honestly, clearly, and with timeliness must return the favor. Top-down, protocol-driven communication is critical to the smooth functioning of any organization, regardless of size.

#4. Conflict Resolution Skills (And an Even Keel)

When conflict arises between two or more colleagues, the best employees know how to take control and defuse the argument. They also know how to win or shape arguments without (rhetorically) firing a shot – by persuading others with logic and emotional appeal, rather than brute force. This skill set is non-negotiable in management candidates.

Non-managerial employees with above-average conflict resolution skills and no-drama dispositions tend to rise fast within their organizations. Do your utmost to retain them, as they're likely to flesh out your next generation of supervisory, managerial, and executive talent.

#5. Adaptive Thinking

In an excellent 2011 Harvard Business Review report that remains as relevant as ever, Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler posit that successful organizations must be adaptive.

"Instead of being really good at doing some particular thing," they write, "companies must be really good at learning how to do new things."

Adaptive thinking is fundamentally a people-driven process. And organizations, after all, are only as good as their people. If your workforce isn't open to "learning how to do new things," or experimenting with new solutions to old problems, your organization's ability to adapt will be severely constrained.

#6. Cognitive Load Management

We're living through the golden age of information. Never has so much data been available with so little friction.

Unfortunately, the human brain isn't really wired to synthesize vast amounts of data, let alone subjective information, in real time. Even the most intelligent human employees can't keep up with the constant, unfiltered inflow of information to which they're subjected every minute of every working day.

The best employees are those capable of applying effective filters that limit and shape what attracts their immediate attention, puts less pressing information aside for later, and discards the rest. In other words, those capable of resisting distraction. This future-proof skill is bound up with other essential soft skills, such as time management and workflow organization.

How is your organization building the workforce of the future?

SupportYourApp Customer Service Outsourcing

Customer support is an important function for any business. But it can be especially vital for tech startups. And that’s specifically the type of business that customer service outsourcing company SupportYourApp aims to help.

The company provides outsourcing services and other customer support for startups and software companies. Read more about the business in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Provides customer support for tech startups.

CEO Daria Leshchenko told Small Business Trends, “SupportYourApp provides customer support outsourcing services exclusively for tech companies. Our company offers tier 1 & 2 support. The company’s main focus is inbound and outbound support, but we also handle social media customer care. Our clients are mostly startups, commerce companies, and SaaS companies.”

Business Niche

Focusing on customer support, even at the top.

This philosophy can be best demonstrated through the company’s CEO, Daria.

Leshchenko says, “Just like all of our employees, [I] started as a customer support agent, so I know all of the ins and out of customer support better than anyone.”

How the Business Got Started

Through a renewed focus on outsourcing.

Leshchenko says, “Our company started in 2010 as an in-house support team for a software development company in Kyiv, Ukraine.”

Due to changes in company management, Leshchenko had been appointed the role of interim Support Manager and told to do whatever she saw fit with the team for an entire month. So Leshchenko restaffed the entire support team and put a renewed focus on outsourcing.

SupportYourApp Customer Service Outsourcing

Biggest Risk

Taking on too many projects at once.

Leshchenko explains, “In the beginning SupportYourApp focused on quantity over quality. At any single time one agent could be handling support for up to 10 different companies. We ultimately decided to reformat the way we operate, thereby losing a large number of clients who did not feel that our new approach was what they needed. Today, SupportYourApp offers dedicated and shared support: each agent supports a maximum of 2 client companies at once. This allows our agents to become true experts of the products they are supporting.”

Lesson Learned

Don’t limit yourself.

Leshchenko says, “In the very beginning, our company was targeted specifically at supporting Mac software developers. While we love Macs and Mac applications, this really limited us in terms of clients and we decided that we should start working with other types of software companies as well as hardware developers. Our only regret is that we hadn’t come to this conclusion sooner, having focused almost three years exclusively on applications for Mac computers.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Supporting the team.

Leshchenko says, “We would focus on team building activities and invite speakers to our office for training seminars and lectures, maybe even take the whole team for a corporate vacation. At SupportYourApp, we believe that our employees make our company truly special.”

SupportYourApp Customer Service Outsourcing

Favorite Team Activity


Leshchenko says, “[I’m] an avid runner and love to get the whole SupportYourApp team involved. Every year our employees take part in marathons and charity runs for all types of causes. Last year we took part in the Kyiv Chestnut Run.”

Favorite Quote

“We’re just enthusiastic about what we do.” – Steve Jobs

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: SupportYourApp; Top Image: Vitaliy Liakhovich – Dedicated Support Agent, Nikolai Riabchenko – Chief Integration Officer, Bohdan Shevchuk – QA Manager, Victoria Pryshchepa – Dedicated Support Agent, Vladimir Dreval – Supervision Manager, Daria Leshchenko – Chief Executive Officer, Anastasia Burlakova, Ann Kuss – Chief Operating Officer, Oleksii Bulavintsev – Sales Assistant, Mariia Sirychenko – HR Manager, Anna Kryvych – HR Assistant; Second Image: Nikolai Riabchenko – Chief Integration Officer and support agents; Third Image: CEO – Daria Leshchenko and the SupportYourApp team

This article, "Spotlight: SupportYourApp Helps Tech Startups With Customer Support" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Is a Verification of Employment Letter?

If you own a business that employs people, you’ve got to assume a wide range of responsibilities. A lot of those responsibilities are pretty obvious, like conducting payroll or fulfilling new tax requirements.

Yet every so often, an employee will come to you asking for something that might seem a bit less straight-forward — such as the provision of evidence of employment to help them secure a bank loan or snag a new tenancy.

But this sort of request is actually a lot more common than you might think. And when it happens, the easiest way to help out is to issue a Verification of Employment (VoE) letter.

What is a Verification of Employment Letter?

A VoE letter is a short document that an employee can use to prove they are currently employed at a particular company. Banks and mortgage companies will often request potential borrowers to produce a VoE letter before they agree to offering a loan, and landlords will usually ask for a similar reference before letting a property out.

At the end of the day, lending institutions and other agencies ask for VoE letters to prove the individual in question is on top of their finances or will be in a position to make regular payments to repay a debt obligation. If you employee foreign nationals, a VoE letter could also be a crucial visa requirement.

Bearing that in mind, chances are most of your employees will need to ask for a VoE letter as some point over the course of their work. It’s not something individuals need very often, but it isn’t a rare request. What’s more, it can be a very important request.

As an employer, you aren’t legally obliged to issue a VoE letter in most situations. Various states have different rules relating to when and how these references are issued. That being said, these rules are generally quite similar – and it will only take a few minutes out of your day in order to write one.

What Information is Included in a Verification of Employment Letter?

A VoE letter isn’t an ordinary, long-winded employment reference. The organizations requesting a VoE letter typically only want employers to confirm a few of the key facts relating to an individual’s employment. These include: the date employment began, the individual’s name and title, their salary and how often they are paid and whether the employee is part-time or full-time.

The letter itself follows the style of an ordinary business-style letter – but if you’d like to see an example or two, there are plenty of websites that offer easy-to-use templates. If your business has official stationary, this is a good time to use it – and you should generally include business contact details in case the ultimate recipient of the VoE letter has further questions concerning the letter.

You should also seal the envelope before issuing it to your employee.

It might not seem like much, but VoE letters can make a world of difference to an employee’s personal life. That’s why authorship of these letters is a relatively crucial admin task that comes hand-in-hand with taking on staff.

Laptop Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Is a Verification of Employment Letter?" was first published on Small Business Trends

13 Best Ways to Prepare for Publishing Your First Book
Writing a book gives authors a chance to share stories of challenges overcome, talk about skills they’ve developed or offer guidance on how to handle a complex subject. Considering online options such as Smashwords or Amazon’s CreateSpace, publishing a book (in both dead tree and electronic formats) has never been easier. That’s why we asked 13 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

What is one piece of advice for entrepreneurs interested in publishing their first book?

How to Prepare for Publishing Your First Book

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Understand Your Goals and Audience

“Before starting, it’s important to deeply understand your goals and your audience. Ask yourself, “What do I need to accomplish for this to be worthwhile?” and “Who do I need to reach to accomplish those goals?” Answering these questions, you’ll be able to discover what that audience needs, and ensure your book is properly positioned to reach them and solve their problems.” ~ Zach ObrontBook in a Box

2. Start Writing Today

“Just start writing. Set aside time, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, and write down your thoughts and stories regarding the topic of your book. Before long, you’ll have a lot of great content that you, or a copywriter or editor, can start organizing into book form. It’s easier than ever to publish a book these days, but good content will always be the driver of success!” ~ Jeremy

3. Create Quality Content

“Some entrepreneurs get into publishing a book just for the sake of publishing it. While a book will boost your authority, and open you up to new opportunities like speaking engagements, if the book doesn’t contain quality content, it might do more harm than good. After all, people will be paying for your book to read it, and if it sucks, why should they care?” ~ Ismael WrixenFE International

4. Focus on the Story and the Marketing Plan

“Focus on creating a great and inspiring story, and come up with an equally great way to market it. With so many aspiring authors and businessmen out there, we are all competing in a very crowded and saturated market, in which you can only stand out if you have a truly inspiring, moving and motivating story, and a plan to communicate it.” ~ David TomasCyberclick

5. Research Self Publishing and Crowdsourcing

“Sites like Publishizer are great for raising money and getting awareness for your book in order to either work with a publisher or raise funds for self-publishing. Understand how the process works, and research what might work best for your genre and budget.” ~ Angela RuthDue

6. Define Your Objective Clearly

“One thing I learned early on while publishing my first book and having spoken to several published authors and agents is to have your objective clearly defined. Whether it is to help generate leads, project yourself as a thought leader, getting more speaking engagements or generate income; defining this will at the beginning will help you achieve your goals faster.” ~ Rahul VarshneyaArkenea

7. Hire a Strong Editor

“Find the best editor available to help you polish your manuscript into the best possible shape. An editor can help you find gaping holes that need filled and ways to get your message across succinctly and persuasively. To help you save money, make sure that you’ve performed your own self-edits before you send it to your editor so she doesn’t have to correct punctuation and grammar.” ~ Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

8. Hire a Literary Agent

“Most large publishers will only work with agents. If you are writing your first book, you want to work with an expert that will help you clearly outline your objectives and already has the connections and knowledge within the industry. Be the master of the subject you are writing about and hire an expert that will have the best chance at putting in the hands of your future readers.” ~ Hillary HobsonHighest Cash Offer

9. Consider Partnering With an Established Author

“Most entrepreneurs are busy running businesses, and, let’s face it, writing a book takes a lot of time. Also, drafting pithy, easily consumable and conversational content does not come naturally to many people. It may be worth the investment to partner with an established author who can shepherd your book through the often daunting process from idea to outline to finished manuscript.” ~ Alexandra LevitPeopleResults

10. Don’t Do It to Make Money

“I wrote my first book out of passion for the topic (financial literacy education for kids). I was told over and over again by authors that few books make money (the margins are just so small). Go into it knowing that it should be something you either simply must do and has nothing to do with the money, or do it because it builds your brand and meshes well with your existing platform.” ~ Darrah BrusteinNetwork Under 40

11. Lower Your Expectations

“Don’t assume you will be the next bestseller out there. With so many places to get content nowadays, you may start to get traction after your first book. Be patient and keep going. Publish it anyways and make sure to share it as much as possible. Just don’t start with the assumption you will be rich doing it.” ~ Zach BinderRanklab

12. Packaging Is Everything

“While the contents of the book are important, the most important part of publishing a book is making it look professional and polished. Spend money to get a great cover design, get influencers to comment on the book, and promote it heavily. You are not going to make money from your book. Publishing a book establishes credibility for yourself that you can then leverage in the future.” ~ Ryan ShankPhoneWagon

13. Think of Your Book as a Brand-Building Tool

“As an entrepreneur, one of the most important things to keep in mind is building your reputation and brand. Your first thought should be providing information your customers need. Answer some of their most pressing problems and use the book to establish your expertise. Then you can sell it or even give it away as a lead generating machine.” ~ Shawn PoratScorely

Typewriter Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "13 Best Ways to Prepare for Publishing Your First Book" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to focus on a new target audience

I was in the middle of a first coaching session with “Brenda” not long ago when I heard her say a phrase that made my warning sign go off.

It sounded something like this:

“I want to help people who don’t understand what (my offering) can do for them.”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard a similar statement from a coaching client.

As a matter of fact, I hear it so often I now have a name for this concept — I call it the “halo effect.”

And when people suffer from it, they can end up focusing on the wrong target audience for years. Sometimes this one mistake — made early on — can make it impossible to build a profitable business.

I have two resources for you in this article — a quiz to help you identify whether your target audience needs to change, and a checklist that will show you how to pivot your business to a new audience.

The devastating consequences of the halo effect

The halo effect happens when business owners want to help. It’s deeply rooted in a desire to serve. It comes from people who want to make a difference in the world with their gifts.

These are all beautiful things.

But when the people you aim to serve aren’t even aware they need your help, you’re setting your business up for long years of struggle. You may spend years pushing to get people to accept that they need what you offer. And you may never generate the profits you’re aiming for.

Your business may not even make it.

This is the kind of business mistake that weakens the foundation you’ll build your success on.

Why your customer avatar must have a “felt need”

Your customer avatar is a description of your ideal customer. And your ideal customer is someone who:

  • Is aware they have a challenge that needs to be solved — that’s their “felt need”
  • Recognizes the issue is important enough that they must take action to solve it
  • Has the ability to pay to solve the problem

These are all important if you want to be profitable, so let’s weave them into one statement you can make into your new mantra:

“My ideal customer deeply feels the need for a solution to their problem — and they can afford to pay for it.”

By the way — is this article making you feel vaguely uncomfortable?

Are you wondering if you set off in the wrong direction and got your customer profile all wrong?

Don’t worry — there’s a solution. And that’s what this piece is about. I have a quick quiz you can take and a resource to share. Keep reading.

We’re going to talk about how to pivot your business and re-orient it toward the customer you want to reach — the one who knows they need help and is ready to pay for it.

Take this quick quiz to find out if you need a new target audience

Turn toward a new target audienceBefore you begin to turn the ship that is your business toward a new customer (which, depending on how long you’ve been around might not be an easy maneuver) let’s confirm that you really need to target a different customer group.

Answer the five questions below: how many of these “symptoms” you can say yes to?

Are you feeling "antsy" in your business? Not as inspired by it as you used to be?
  • Yes
  • No
Next Question Have you noticed your audience isn’t growing as it was before?
  • Yes
  • No
Next Question Have you gone beyond your original solution? Do you feel you have more to offer now?
  • Yes
  • No
Next Question Are you interested in helping an audience with more complex problems?
  • Yes
  • No
Next Question Have your profits plateaued recently?
  • Yes
  • No
Finish Quiz

^^^ Did you take the quiz? If so, your score should appear above this line. ^^^

If you scored 30 points or more, chances are good that you need to re-focus your business on a new target audience.

Let’s dig in and make it happen!

How to define your new target audience

Whether you call them your perfect customer, your ideal customer, your target market, your target audience — or your perfect-ideal-target-customer-avatar — what you’re looking for is a customer who fits the description we came up with above:

“My ideal customer deeply feels the need for a solution to their problem — and they can afford to pay for it.”

One of the easiest ways to understand your new target audience is to pinpoint how they differ from your current audience — the one you’ve been serving up until now.

How is your new target audience different than your existing audience?
  • Have they had this problem for more or less time than your current customer?
  • Are they more or less familiar with the benefits your solution offers?
  • Do they have more or less money to spend on a solution?

If you’ve never spent time identifying your ideal customer, this might be a good time to do that. My Ideal Customer Guide is a small investment that will give you BIG clarity around who your ideal customer is and how you can reach them.

How to focus on your new ideal customer

First off, let’s answer to the most-common question I hear around this, which is, “Do I need to build a new website for my new customer?”

Probably not.

Unless your new business is radically different from your existing one, or your existing business serves a target audience that is the antithesis to the customer you want to serve, you can probably pivot your branding — rather than building a new brand from scratch.

It’s a matter of re-orienting your verbal brand and your visual brand so your new target customer recognizes themselves.

And it’s a matter of re-focusing your content marketing and ongoing communication like email marketing toward this new customer.

Need more help?

One of the reasons I chose today’s topic is that in the past seven years, I’ve noticed a change in the people who use this site.

In the early days, Big Brand System attracted people who wanted to “DIY” their branding. There are still many, many resources here to help people do that.

But more recently, I’ve noticed an evolution in my audience. Many of you are way beyond the “DIY” phase. You’re running a business that is going at full speed — and you may be struggling to manage your growth and keep everything on track.

I see how much you’re growing. And I want to offer you personalized help in one of my coaching programs. At the same time, I know:

  • You may have been in a “coaching program” that try to fit every business into a pre-set mold. That’s not how I work.
  • You may have worked with a coach before who didn’t hear your struggles, fears, and concerns. I’ll give you the support you need to make measurable progress.
  • You may feel stuck where you are now and you’re not sure how to move forward. Let’s move forward together.

When you get support, accountability, and encouragement from someone who’s walked the road before you, you can move mountains in your business. -)

Price goes up next month

Next month, the price for my Momentum Coaching package will go up. If you’d like to work with me, this is the time to fill out the application and get signed up.

I have three coaching programs in various price ranges — if you need help, fill out the application and I’ll send details.


This is a personalized process from the moment of the application — I read and respond to every entry, so watch your inbox after you send in your information.

Talk to me in the comments

Are you focusing on a new target audience? Talk to me below — I want to hear how it’s going! Who are you focusing on now?

The post How to Focus Your Business on a New Target Audience appeared first on Big Brand System.

What Can Small Business Learn From the Rich and Wealthy?

I’m a big fan of learning from the people I admire, and while I certainly know that money isn’t everything, I do take notes when I encounter a successful business person who’s made it big.  Why?  Because I already have a firm handle on my values and needs, but I can certainly learn more about how to scale my business for big growth.  Here’s what I’ve observed:

What You Can Learn from the Rich 1. Don’t Borrow Money

Debt is a set of shackles.  You have to work harder to pay money back than you would have to earn it in the first place.  The ultra-rich understand that sometimes it’s best to defer a purchase until you can pay for it in cash.  You’re far better off learning to accomplish your goals with creativity and determination than you are if you ask others to shoulder your risk for you.  Find ways to cut costs, create a new way to make money…do everything you can to be beholden to nobody.

2. Put Others to Work for You

All the money in the world doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have the time to enjoy it.  If you insist on doing everything yourself, then your earnings are determined (and limited) by your hourly rate and the finite number of hours in each day.  Say you can bill $100/hour for your time.  If you work ten hours a day, then your earnings are $1000.  But if you need more than that to keep your business and family afloat, then you’re in a pickle!  But imagine that you employ ten people who earn you $15/hour.  You’re instantly pulling in $1500 for a ten-hour day, and if you add more employees, you can continue to grow your company.  Think big!

3. Memories > Stuff

One thing you’ll discover if you observe rich folks is that while they may have expensive things, oftentimes, their focus is on experiences rather than stuff.  If you’re contemplating purchasing a frivolous item — like a sportscar or a Rolex — consider instead what it could mean to your family to take a trip of a lifetime.  When we’re old, we’re unlikely to wish we’d had more stuff.  Instead, we’re likely to wish we’d spent more time living it up with the people who matter to us.

4. Love What You Do

When I’m giving advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to refine their niche, one question I like to ask is “What would you be doing if it weren’t about the money?”  Now the answer can’t simply be “Drinking margaritas in Mexico.”  The point is that if you can find a way to incorporate your passion into your work, then you’re learning one of the rich folks’ secrets.  They don’t derive pleasure simply from amassing wealth.  They feel motivated because they love what they do.  You can do that too!  Ask yourself what matters to you apart from money … and then find a way to make money from it!

It pays to learn from the experts.  And if you’re looking for ways to improve your financial standing, it only makes sense to look at the folks who’ve already done it.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Champagne and Caviar Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Can Small Business Learn From the Rich and Successful?" was first published on Small Business Trends

by Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of Bizfi

money pay

When it comes to small businesses, debt is not uncommon. Nor is it uncommon for a small business to have only one debt. If you are spending more time managing your debt than your business, it may be time to consider consolidating that debt.

Debt consolidation can help businesses regain control of their finances. It can create a more manageable repayment schedule, reduce the number of creditors that you deal with each month and, possibly, get your business a lower interest rate. It can also help a small business to put itself on firmer footing, making it a better candidate for growth financing in the future.

As you plan to consolidate the debts at your small business, remember that three things will affect the terms you are extended in the consolidation: your personal credit score, your business credit score and the overall state of your business’ finances:

1. Personal Credit Score.

A good personal credit score is a factor in any small business loan application. Forty-five percent of small business borrowers who get a “no” on a loan application get that because of low personal credit scores. Before embarking on any loan request, get a copy of your personal credit report, and make sure that it is accurate; mistakes are more common than you think and fixing them is one of the fastest ways to improve your credit score. Every American consumer is entitled to one free credit report a year from the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. When you find an error in your report, follow the bureaus’ procedures to get it fixed. And remember that, as you successfully pay back your debts and use credit wisely, your credit score will increase.

2. Business Credit Score.

The businesses that you do business with report their interactions to create a credit score for your company. If you pay them promptly, that can help your business to build a strong credit score. If they have liens against you, it will dampen your score. Small business owners need to know that while they can get one free copy of their personal credit report once a year from the credit reporting agencies, they will need to pay to get a copy of their business credit report.But that’s an investment you must make if you are considering consolidation. Again, look for errors and report any you spot to the agency and to the business partner that might have made the erroneous report. Looking toward the future, be sure to pay all vendors promptly and, simply, stay in business: The more years your doors are open, the better it is for your score.

3. Overall Business Finances.

Where are you in your business cycle? Debt consolidation is going to be easier if you are headed into high season than if your low season is about to begin. If your business isn’t seasonal, think about other factors that could make your business a better candidate now, like improved profitability, lowered expenses or signing on a big new client.

Of course debt consolidation is only one of the steps that you can—and should—take to run a better business. If you’re still sending paper invoices through the mail, switch now to instant electronic invoicing which can greatly speed up your collections. Take a hard look at how fast your inventory is turning over, and stop ordering products that aren’t selling even if they are your personal favorites. Talk to your local utilities about energy audits that can help you cut your gas and electricity bills. Not sure what’s causing the drag on your finances? Set up a free counseling session or two with SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. This nonprofit, which is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, can match your small business with an experienced mentor who can help you discover better ways to be in business.



Stephen Sheinbaum is the founder of Bizfi, the leading fintech company with a platform that combines aggregation, funding and a marketplace for small businesses, and has more than 25 years of financial technology experience building companies and launching products within organizations. Since 2005, Bizfi has originated in excess of $2 billion in funding to more than 35,000 small businesses, including many well-known franchises.


It’s not just fleeing conflict that makes victims out of refugees – it’s also denying them the means to become autonomous and productive

From the 1980s on, a dominant international approach has been taken towards the majority of the world’s refugees. Concentrated in a small number of host countries, close to war zones, displaced people have been settled in what have become known as “humanitarian silos”. Such places are usually remote, arid, dangerous and almost always have strict prohibitions on socio-economic activity. They are designed to deal only with the emergency phase of refugee intake, and yet the model has endured, leaving individuals and families stranded for years at a time.

This strategy undermines autonomy and dignity. It also erodes human potential by focusing almost exclusively on people’s vulnerabilities, rather than on rebuilding their lives. Inevitably, many of those directly affected by it become disillusioned and choose to move on, gravitating towards urban areas in the host nation or risking their lives crossing oceans to other countries.

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Are you looking for an additional way of making money? Making more money doesn’t mean you need to give up your “day job.”  Whether you work a nine to five job or are a small business owner, this particular idea works for any situation.

How You Too Can Benefit from These Lucrative Domain Investing Methods

What is the idea? It is domain investing. Or another, more descriptive way to look at it is “domain flipping.” I prefer to look at domain investing as a process. It is similar to buying a house that needs some TLC (tender loving care) and to improving the house before selling it.

That said, domain investing is not a push button success. You can’t go out and register a domain that you like and expect to easily become a millionaire by selling it the next day.

That is not to say that making money quickly absolutely cannot happen. But the odds are against you that doing so is that easy. On the other hand, you can do well by carefully implementing certain plans with a solid strategy behind them. For example, check out these successful domain “flips” from the past.

The Strategy

To help make the process easier, we based the following strategy on the investment cousin of domain flipping: real estate investment. There are quite a few similarities between the two. Let’s take a look at them now, via the investment solution site of triple net property.

Location (What Does the Domain Say?)

In real estate, location is almost everything. If you purchase real estate in a slum, the value that you will receive, in flipping it, is a lot lower than if you purchase a fixer-upper in an elite neighborhood.

In the same way, the domain name itself is very key to your ability to flip it for a good return on your investment (ROI). I once accidentally (I wasn’t paying attention) registered the domain, I thought I had hit the jackpot; after all, it was “”

However, it was a misspelling. Fortunately, I was able to get $300 out of it, which covered my $10 fee for registering it and then some. I was lucky. If I had been paying more attention, I would not have registered a domain with a misspelling. But, hey, I benefited in the long run.

Asset (What Is the Initial or Potential Value of the Domain?)

“Asset” is related to the previous strategy component, “Location.” You need to look at the domain (including the spelling!) and ask yourself what potential (if any) there is with the registration of that domain. But you also need to evaluate the initial value of the domain.

So the first question is the question of the initial value of the domain “as is.” The second question is the potential value of the domain.

My example of indicates an initial value that does not seem to add up to very much. However, the person investing in the domain might have some inside information. This is not to be confused with “insider information” that violates Securities and Exchange Commission laws in the United States.

The inside information is there might be an investor who is interested in the misspelled domain. If so, there is a future for the potential value of the domain. In that case, investing $10 in the registration of a misspelled domain was the right decision, even if you didn’t know the inside info at the time.

That said, I don’t recommend taking that risk unless there is more of a guarantee on the ROI. If you already have a client interested in the misspelled domain, purchasing it would be worth the risk.

By the way, there are even options to hire agencies to do the initial work/research for you for a fee. One example is

Tenant (What Is Your Plan for the Domain and Is It Lucrative?)

In real estate you want to find the right tenant so you can make money off of monthly income instead of flipping the property. In a similar way, there are other ways to make money off of a domain investment besides selling the domain.

One example is selling the website. However, doing so requires registering the domain and then building the website into a lucrative investment. You’ll need to build traffic, valuable content, and more. Oftentimes, preparing to sell a website also involves hiring an agency that specializes in building sites.

Another tip is to register a domain that was registered a long time ago (like twenty years). Age matters in domain or website flipping. However, in that case, you actually want to purchase the domain from a site like so you are obtaining a domain without any interruption in the registration.

When you own a domain that was registered twenty years ago, you know you have one with a consistent registration and no interruption. You might also want to consider when the time comes for you to sell your domain or website.

Lease (How Can You Increase Your Profit Margin in the Correct Way?)

You need to make a decision. Are you going to register a potentially new domain and flip it? Or will you opt for a method like the site and purchase an existing website, build it, and then flip it?

Either decision works, but consider what you are investing. Also consider what you expect to receive for those efforts, including any work or payment for services. The key is that you want a return on investment.

Obviously, the larger that ROI, the better. But you want to have a plan that at least has a good chance of being failsafe in giving you return for your costs in time and money. Doing your research ahead of time helps to increase that opportunity.

However, if a valuable domain comes your way, sometimes your research time needs to be cut down so you can invest before someone else does. It is all about making the best decision you can in the amount of time you have available.

Ownership (What Are Your Final Plans for the Domain?)

This part of our strategy is a matter of summing up much of what we have already been discussing, especially the previous two sections.

What IS your plan with this domain or website? Don’t feel guilty if your plan is to make something out of the domain for a few years and then sell it. And don’t even worry  about allowing yourself to hold onto it for several years before coming up with a plan. Remember, you can make money with it in other ways (i.e. advertising and building traffic) while you are deciding on that final plan.

Nothing has to be absolutely set in stone from the beginning, but the more that you have a plan/strategy in place, the better.

The post How You Too Can Benefit from These Lucrative Domain Investing Methods appeared first on GrowMap.

Think you’ve run out of ways to attract new email subscribers? Think again. There are plenty of creative methods to get sign-ups from new visitors—many of which you probably have never tried.

So we asked 10 successful entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question:

Q. What’s one creative way to grow my small business’s email list? 1. Use an Exit Pop-up

 Exit pop-ups can dramatically improve conversion rates on your website, in particular for capturing email addresses. We use a company called Hold On Stranger to deliver a pop-up containing a free SEO audit in exchange for a name and email. This method has increased our lead volume by nearly 30 percent and has allowed us to (inexpensively) create a fairly large, targeted email list. —Kristopher

2. Give Away Compelling Content

Provide visitors with informative content, whether it’s video-based or written. You’ve got to give your audience something of value that answers questions they have. Simply asking people to sign up for your email newsletter isn’t very compelling. Think first: What information can I teach my audience that will be of value to them? If your mind-set isn’t about giving, you’re not going to be successful. —Adam WittyAdvantage Media Group

3. Hold Influencer Contests Via Instagram

This is the cheapest, quickest, and most effective way to quickly scale your list by the thousands, drive revenue, and grow your community. Create a list of Instagram influencers and accounts that relate to your market. Then come up with a giveaway/offer and a landing page. Have the influencers post and drive traffic to the page, and offer 30% off to all those who entered, once the contest is over. —Alexander MendelukThe Disruptive

4. Have a Full-Screen Call to Action

So many sites miss the simple starting point of having an easy sign-up list. We use a Welcome Mat from Sumo that drops down over our whole site and offers 10% off for signing up. It’s impossible to miss, captures new visitors, and ensures advertising spend is used to get people to sign up the first time. It also will hopefully give us another chance to email people if they leave without buying the first time. —Josh SpragueOrange Mud

5. Offer Something Valuable in Exchange

Offer something valuable in exchange for users’ email addresses. It’s best to build a list of emails via single or double opt-in to ensure the highest-quality list possible and prevent your domain from being flagged as a sender of spam emails. An e-book, case study, white paper, templates, or other custom content can go a long way in getting users to hand over their email addresses. —Duran InciOptimum7

6. Let People Self-Select Their Content

Everyone hates signing up for mailing lists for one reason: Getting emails you don’t care about can be really annoying. Remove this objection by offering people a drop-down or checklist of options so they can choose specifically which topics they want to hear about you from. Don’t lump everyone into one group and you’ll get more sign-ups, higher engagement, and happier subscribers. —Roger LeeCaptain401

7. Host a Giveaway

If you’re paying for an ad, take advantage of the opportunity to build an email list of the people who are curious about your company/product. Make sure that the ad’s landing page provides an email sign-up before visitors attempt to leave. You can then choose a “giveaway” winner from that email list and, moving forward, connect with all the customers who signed up. —Daisy JingBanish

8. Invite Every Single Visitor to Subscribe

Everyone who clicks on our website sees a pop-up incentive of 15% off for signing up to our email list. We’d rather have a smaller list with a higher open rate than a gazillion people who are just deleting it. This is the best way to get people who like us onto our list, and we take advantage of casual browsers who have just heard of us. When someone visits your site, get them on your list. —Ashley FerraroDona Jo, Inc.

9. Join a National Association

Research industry niches where your customers hang out. Choose one and join. You can usually access the email list via membership or sponsorship. Either way, you’re increasing your email list with a captive audience. —Ben CamerotaMVP Visuals


10. Create a Twitter Card

Create a “Subscribe Now” Twitter card and pin it to your Twitter profile. Tell people why they should sign up and what the email will offer. A Twitter card allows for a one-click sign-up, and you can use it as a post, ad, or send it as a mention to people. —Renato LibricBouxtie Inc.

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Most businesses fail within the first year of opening their doors, and it’s often because they failed to invest cash into their new business wisely. Even decades-old businesses can struggle financially from time to time, and the only way to stay afloat is to borrow money from a lender. You might assume banks are your only option when you need a cash injection, but there are other ways to get financing. Plus, if you decide to secure a loan from the bank, how do you know which one you need?

Banks might not always be forthcoming with all your options because they intend to make a safe profit, and other lenders often offer more favorable terms. At least if you know your options, you can turn up to the bank or high-street lender prepared to negotiate, which is why we’ve detailed the most popular business loans below.

Finding the Right Business Loan

New ventures may need a cash injection to start operating while seasoned companies may require a loan to build a new office. Lenders offer different loan types for different situations, and they may not provide desirable terms if you can’t currently prove business success. From unsecured loans to line-of-credits to unconventional business loans, these are the most popular loans for small and medium-sized businesses.

Line of credit

It’s useful for all business with a variable monthly income to have a line-of-credit, just for when times become tough. You’ll agree on a limit with your bank, and you’ll be able to access the money as and when required. Line of credits often have a low interest rate because they’re considered low-risk, and you’ll usually return the money promptly. Interest starts to accumulate as soon as you spend money from your line of credit and stops the second you pay it back. You probably won’t open a new location or revamp your office with a line of credit, but it’s useful for if you need money quickly to seize an investment opportunity just before you receive your next paycheck.

Secured loan

If you’ve just started your business and need a sizeable cash injection, you may have no choice but to obtain a secured loan. While interest rates can be favorable, these loans are a little risky because you need to secure them against your assets, which could be your equipment, premises or vehicles. If you can’t afford to repay your loan, the loan provider will claim ownership of your assets to repay all or part of the loan. With a secured loan, you can usually repay the full amount early without paying a penalty, but the initial total cost of interest will be calculated based on the date you agree to repay the full loan amount. You’ll usually make periodic payments for a set number of years until you repay the loan in full. You can use a secured loan to make any purchases you desire.

Unsecured loan

Similar to a secured loan, an unsecured loan includes an interest rate and repayment plan agreement, though you don’t have to risk any of your assets as collateral. That means even if you can’t afford to meet payments, the lender can’t claim ownership of your assets. It’s not always possible for start-ups to obtain unsecured loans because they’re considered high risk, so lenders naturally want to feel confident a business will be successful should they invest their loan wisely. Additionally, interest rates are usually higher on unsecured loans than on secured loans because of the increased risk, but they’re often very flexible, and you might secure favorable terms if your business does well.

Which Loan is Best for Your Business?

You ought to compare loans from a range of providers to secure the best terms and type of loan. Each of the loans above serves different purposes, and many banks and high-street lenders offer them at competitive rates. If you’re running a new, small business, you should remember that interest rates will probably be higher than average, but you’ll soon see them decrease as your company gains stead. Line of credits are useful for most if not all businesses, secured loans can provide start-ups with the initial investment they need to get off the ground, and unsecured loans are perfect for those who don’t want to risk their assets. It’s always good to speak to a financial advisor to find out more about your loan options.

Event Planning Trends to Watch

Events are a major driver of business for small companies. Whether you are in the events industry, on the periphery, or simply attend events, you have likely leveraged an event to help grow your business at some point.

One of the biggest factors in driving change in events is the growing number of technologies designed to enhance live experiences. While there are still some skeptics who view integrating tech with events as a gimmick or fad, 88 percent of event planners say that apps designed to enhance events increase the satisfaction of their attendees.

There are a few standouts when it comes to changes in the industry. “The shift to mobile away from paper, changing from transactions to complete experiences and deeper engagement are just some of the main trends that will change the event/ticketing industries,” says Neetu Bhatia, CEO and founder of Kyazoonga, an online ticketing provider for consumers and event planners. Bhatia and other small business owners are helping drive a wave of innovation and some key trends that will change the way events look in 2017. The following are a few of those trends that might be worth watching closely in the coming year, especially if your business interfaces with any events.

Event Planning Trends Data Insights

Event marketers will be using events to get data insights about consumers. 83 percent of event planners revealed that the main drive behind their events is increasing profits. To help achieve those profits, they will use technology to glean more information from the event-goer in a way that might help them predict future behavior.

Bhatia shared, “We’re utilizing deep social media integration to leverage the fact that access to events is fundamentally a community exercise. All of this is helping to drive a seamless, hassle-free, frictionless experience for end users while driving increased engagement, attendance and therefore revenue for our clients.” Predictive analytics are helping companies in countless industries avoid costly mistakes and target approaches that are more likely to result in growth. The events industry can benefit by tracking consistent attendee data and modifying the experience to match their behavior.

Events to Drive Customer Loyalty

An EMI survey that 48 percent of companies experience a return on investment around from 3:1 to 5:1 after any given event. As a result, more companies can be expected to invest in ticketed events in 2017. Industry leaders like Red Bull have been creating these kinds of events for years. Their popular Flutag events have drawn tens of thousands of attendees to watch makeshift planes attempt to fly over water in countless locations around the world. The event itself has little to do with Red Bull’s brand, but it has become an international phenomenon that often drives the media coverage needed for launching new products and driving consumer awareness.

Brands looking to employ a similar strategy in 2017 need to focus on creative events that offer unique experiences, even if they are not directly related to the brand’s industry. An increasing number of consumers expect authenticity in brands, so events are a great way to establish transparent relationships with potential customers.

Growth in Event Tech Continues

The number of technologies available to event professionals is growing, with exciting developments arriving all the time. While many of these solutions are being created by innovative startups and smaller brands, big players are adopting solutions to provide more comprehensive solutions for the events industry.

Bhatia explains how event tech is helping integrate data-driven solutions, “We use data to enhance the in-venue experience with real-time notifications to help drive purchases based on attendees’ current experiences and behavior.” Using new tech to upgrade the event experience will help keep users engaged and more willing to return to repeat events.

Whether you own a small business catering to the event space, one that uses events to advance the business, or are simply curious about the industry, these will be the trends to pay attention to in the coming year. Be sure to watch how they unfold in various event segments like sporting events, trade shows, and smaller local experiences. Each will likely develop customized versions of larger solutions; that may provide new partnerships and revenue opportunities.

Pushpins Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Event Planning Trends to Watch" was first published on Small Business Trends

Diminishing Infrastructural Expense For Maximum Profit lists fourteen things small businesses can do to maintain their sustainability, and one of them is to minimize expenses . To that end, technological solutions like cloud computing are changing the way businesses are run. Such solutions allow for expense minimization and ability expansion. You’re able to pay less and do more.

Consider a few features of the cloud in order to understand this change. With cloud computing, employees can work in a digital sense anywhere they’ve got internet and a computer. They can clock-in through the cloud and commence operations in their basement, at the coffee shop, or even in the airport.

Such a situation of non-local office production and management is the kind conducive to many employees. They like the idea of being able to work where they are when they need to. But advantages of the cloud don’t stop there. You can additionally cut the cost of maintaining on-site server arrays for data storage, processing and development.

Your accounting department can be outsourced to the cloud, and it will be able to get just as much done just as quickly, but at less expense. Then there’s big data, which allows you to store years of information online and then examine it so quick, it is essentially being processed in real time.

Cloud computing isn’t the only area where tech development is changing the face of business. The government in America, depending on your state, offers incentives and tax relief for companies that use “green” alternatives in operations and infrastructure. Your startup could build its own prefabricated steel building, then use solar panels and wind turbines for energy, facilitating tax relief.

Many Different Ways To Save

Between cloud computing and sustainable energy solutions, you’ll be able to operate independent of the grid on property you own while saving money and retaining profitability for outward expansion.

But that’s not enough for sustainable business in today’s world. Additionally, you’re going to want visibility. For that you’ll need a website, which can be expensive to deploy. Also, you’re going to want an ad campaign of some variety, and preferably not one which inundates potential clients with pop-ups.

A great solution is to develop your own mobile application, or “app”; but this can be expensive if you source the app’s development through a tech designer specializing in top-tier solutions. Thankfully, another new technological innovation today is the self-designed application. Like, you can design your own apps over the internet.
Zapable, mobile app design and development solutions provider, has made app design easy even for total beginners: “…we have developed an app builder that has truly bridged the gap to allow anyone the opportunity to build a mobile app for their own business or their client’s business.”
Getting The Most Out Of Available Resources

If you design your own application over the internet, then your own website, followed by a location where you’ve sourced the building materials and designed a sustainable “green” operation utilizing the cloud, you can cut the majority of your infrastructure out entirely and remain operable beyond most conventional operational limits.
There are many technology options today that make running a small-to-medium-sized business more cost-effective than ever. They’ll require a small bit of research on your end to be most effective. That said, refraining from saving thousands of dollars due to a lack of “drive” in terms of learning new skills makes little sense.
All you need to do is a few Google searches, sit back, and crunch the numbers. If you orchestrate everything correctly, you’ll definitely be able to maximize your startup’s profitability with modern technology applications.


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Would You Leave The Door Of a Jewelry Store Unlocked?

A jewelry store has quite a bit of revenue on display in its store windows. Even in small communities, security is very important. No jewelry store leaves their doors unlocked. Most of the “product” is likewise protected under lock and key. And even the best security is still subject to crime.

Now, it would be crazy to leave your jewelry store unprotected; especially in times of economic decline. This is obvious. But did you know that by avoiding cybersecurity protections you’re likewise leaving yourself wide open for theft? It’s true, and there are a few reasons for this; one of the most striking being characterized by cybercrime expansion.

Today, cybercrime losses worldwide are so high that it is often called a “growth” industry. There are literally billions of dollars lost every year due to cybercrime. Common methods of theft include “phishing” scams and ransomware. Both of these often cast a wide net hoping to catch unsecured business “fish” worth thousands.

What’s even more alarming is that small to medium-sized businesses are at greatest risk for security breach. Over fifty percent of such operations are subject to some form of cybercrime attempt on an annual basis. It seems strange when larger businesses have such greater assets; but those assets are also better protected.

A smaller business doesn’t expect to become a target of cybercrime, because they don’t see themselves as a jewelry store with no lock on the door. They’re less likely to have requisite protections against cyberattack, meaning they are more prime targets.

The Ransomware Component

A ransomware attack will usually use an encryption to keep files from being accessible. The worst kind of ransomware makes it so that without paying the sum demanded, not only are files inaccessible, but within a certain period of time they are deleted. This dials up the pressure, and even worse: sometimes if you pay you have to pay again .

The ransomware ingrains itself so integrally in your computer that even when the sum is paid, you can’t transmit your files elsewhere against future attack without that ransomware virus remaining shrouded in your computer’s data.

The best kind of protections from such losses today often come in the form of cloud computing security provisions. With the cloud, you can continuously backup data and even automatically. That way if you’re infected with ransomware, you can revert to an earlier backup and lose little or no business.

Certainly it’s possible to maintain on-site protection solutions, but these require on-site effort to maintain, which costs time and money. Time, because you must establish a regular regimen of data protection practices. Money, because you’ll likely need a backup system to keep all data secure. You can save by paying a monthly charge for cloud services.

Getting Protection

Cyberattacks don’t just undercut your profitability through diverted funds. Additionally, as it becomes known in the community that you’ve had security issues, your reputation suffers. Bad reputation stilts outward growth, meaning your brand ultimately loses strength. Protecting your information maintains your reputation and transitively your brand.

According to, one of the most efficient purveyors of cybersecurity Detroit has to offer, sourcing proper tech security will provide solutions which safeguard: “Your data, reputation, and brand.” It’s basically putting a lock on your jewelry store, and the question becomes: why wouldn’t you?

As information technology expands in the solutions provided through varying innovations, so expand the creative cybercrime threats which naturally develop as tech does. Eventually, you’ll have to get some kind of cybersecurity solution in place regardless, so acting proactively in this region of operations is only sensible.


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By Anna Johansson

When someone mentions technology, Apple is one of the first companies that likely jumps to your mind. Apple’s global profits topped $72 billion in 2015 thanks to their diligent efforts and their ability to cut costs while delivering incredible products. They are a brilliant tech company and have set a major standard for how companies can make it big.

But Apple was small once too, albeit briefly. They built their empire through a variety of methods, and small businesses would do well to follow their example. Any business can benefit from some of the following, groundbreaking lessons from Apple.

1. Clean Branding

If there’s one thing that can be said about Apple’s company, it’s that it has incredibly clean branding. Their products are sleek and uncluttered. Their software works smoothly and is very user-friendly. The same can be said for the layout of their stores, both online and in-person.

Their logo is memorable – you always know something is an Apple product by its shape and color scheme. They don’t have to spend as much on advertising as some of the other major technology companies, either, because their brand is so clean and recognizable.

2. Excellent Teams

When was the last time you called an Apple customer service representative and found them to be unpleasant, unaccommodating, and rude? It’s probably been a while. Apple has one of the highest customer service ratings because team members love their jobs and feel valued in them.

Anytime you enter an Apple store or Apple repair facility, you’ll have a warm, enjoyable experience with people who know what they’re doing. Apple takes the whole customer experience very seriously, and they don’t allow just anyone to work for them.

Steve Jobs himself created the model for building excellent teams. He firmly believed that great businesses were only as great as the people who worked for them.

“My model for business is The Beatles,” he once said. “They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”

3. Put People Before Profits

Another aspect of Apple’s excellent customer service reputation is their ability to put people first. They’re very focused on making incredible, innovative products, but that’s only because it’s what people want.

Overall, the primary purpose of Apple is to enrich people’s lives. Everything from their customer service to the quality of their products shows their dedication to the people who make it all possible.

4. Create Fans Instead of Customers

When Apple first became popular, people loved it because it was revolutionary. They created new products that no one had ever seen with new features that were easy to use. However, other companies like Samsung, Nokia, and Asus have learned some of the tricks of the trade, and now many of their products are similar to Apple’s.

What makes Apple customers stick around is their obsession with anything Apple. The products are so attractive and high-quality that people will camp out in the snow for three days just to be among the first to purchase a brand new Apple product.

5. Being Different Can Be Incredible

One of Steve Job’s most famous quotes goes as follows:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

As a small business, you have the opportunity to bring something brand new and innovative to the world. People might not get your concept now, but if it’s truly valuable and you believe in the product, you can turn it into a business platform that could change the world.

Anna Johansson [email protected] is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


The post 5 Lessons Apple Can Teach Small Businesses appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

Capturing the sun’s rays and converting them into electricity is a complicated process. But it’s one that humans have actually almost mastered at this point.

The solar industry is still growing and evolving. But basic solar panels, those made from crystalline silicon, are now about as efficient as they physically can be.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still room for improvement though. The latest panels can convert more than 26 percent of sunlight into usable electricity. When you consider the ability of the materials used, that’s very efficient. But there are some other tools that can be used to make solar power even more efficient, like concentrators that collect sunlight from a larger area and concentrate it right onto a solar panel.

Of course, these materials aren’t widely used yet. And considering that solar energy right now, under the right circumstances, is already less expensive than fossil fuels, there’s not a huge push to add concentrators and similar pieces of equipment to a lot of existing solar panels.

But it has taken years and years for the solar industry to get to this point. And the cost of basic panels has gone down gradually over that time. So the cost of concentrators and new innovations could certainly get more affordable over time as well.

It’s Important to Keep Up With New Innovations

New industries like solar power are constantly changing and evolving. So it’s important to keep up with new innovations. But it’s also important to recognize the progress that has been made up to this point.

Solar Panels Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Solar Energy is Already Really Efficient — But Still Improving (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Technology has helped close the gap between small businesses and startups and the larger, better-financed competitors they have set out to disrupt. Today, inexpensive and free small business marketing tools, outstanding small business applications from Google, and crowdsourcing have made it possible for startups and small businesses to level the playing field. In some situations, being smaller can even be a competitive advantage.

Crowdsourcing empowers startups and small businesses to avoid the time-consuming process of finding a graphic designer, negotiating a contract and a fee for the work, and the wait to review one or several design choices. Simply put: crowdsourcing is quicker, less expensive, easier, and offers you far more choice than working with a single freelancer or agency.

There are literally dozens of different types of designs that can be crowdsourced.

In this video, we’ll discuss five designs that startups and small businesses should crowdsource to further level the playing field against better-financed and larger competitors:

1. Logo Design
2. Web Design
3. Flyer Design
4. Stationery Design

Watch the video for more detail on how you can crowdsource these five designs and compete with better-financed and larger companies.

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