Archive for December, 2015

S&P 500 sees first annual loss since 2008

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Final hour of selling shuts door on 3 years of double-digit gains

S&P 500 ends year on first loss since 2008

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Final hour of selling shuts door on 3 years of double-digit gains

In The News: AdSense Updates Mobile Ads, FAA Requires Drone Registration

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

drone operator

The tools that you can use to run your small business are constantly changing and evolving. In the new year, concepts like mobile ads and even drones are likely to come up quite a bit, as they sometimes did in 2015.

This week, Google made headlines by unveiling a new look for mobile text ads in AdSense. And the FAA also made news by requiring almost all drones, even non-commercial ones, to be registered. These and more small business updates are included below in this week’s Small Business Trends news and community roundup.

Technology Trends

AdSense Unveils a New Look for Mobile Text Ads

Google has given AdSense mobile text ads a sleek new look. In a recent article on the official Inside AdSense blog , the search engine giant has unveiled the new format that “allows for higher performance with a more beautiful and user-friendly appearance.” The redesigned version has been rolled out on mobile devices, so you should be able to take a look at it right now.

FAA Requires Drone Regulation — Whether Used for Commercial Purposes or Not

Whether you are using your new drone for business or any other purpose, all drones within a certain weight range must now be registered with the federal government. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced its strategic drone registration site that’s now up and running.

Deadline Looming for Verizon, Sprint Refunds: Have You Applied?

You only have until December 31 to file for a refund from one of two wireless communications giant: Verizon Wireless or Sprint Mobile. If you’re like many small business owners, you’re forever trying to figure out how to make your money go just a bit further.

Deluxe’s Jumps On Pre-Owned Domain Trend, Deluxe’s domain registration and website hosting company, is now offering premium domain names, Linzi Breckenridge, VerticalResponse’s Senior Content Marketing Manager said in a blog post. A premium domain is a pre-owned domain name that is now available for resale at a premium price. The name is considered more valuable because it is shorter so users can easily remember.

Green Business

Future Tablet May be Digital Paper — And You Can Share Files

Television shows and movies have long envisioned a future where all of the data anyone could ever need to access is found on paper thin sheets of plastic that can be connected to a hard drive. The allure of this is easy to understand. After all, if we could turn this futuristic sci-fi concept into a reality, we would no longer need expensive monitors to display information.

Marketing Tips

Are Shiny, Metallic or Tactile Business Cards the New Norm?

Moo just announced a new line of shiny, tactile business cards. These design elements have the potential to make your business cards stand out from the sea of plain, matte cards that your clients and contacts have likely collected over the years. But Moo isn’t the first company to offer these unique design elements for business cards.

Signals Are Mixed About Whether Clicks Help “Google My Business” Ranking

Google originally acknowledged that clicks do help “Google My Business” rankings earlier this month then seemed to reverse itself on the subject. The about-face from Google was observed by Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable. The reversal on Google’s part leaves those working to promote their brands through Google My Business to wonder which is the case. On Dec.

Product Lists

Top Business Movies for Entrepreneurs this Holiday Season

One of the newest business movies for entrepreneurs, “Joy” premiered in theaters on Christmas Day. The film, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, details the life of entrepreneur Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop.

Retail Trends

Ebay Has Begun Editing Seller Listings for “Brand Name Misuse”

Instead of removing seller listings for brand name misuse (in other words, keyword spamming) eBay has resorted to editing listings, observers have reported. Previously, eBay simply removed listings that violated its policy and would send out an email to the seller notifying them of the same. However, editing a seller’s listings to fit its policy has been unheard of up until now.

Church Attendance Surges, Food Trucks Decline, Says Foursquare

For the past year, the tastes of Americans have been changing. Trends in everything from food preferences to religious practice are in flux. And, as a small businesses owner, depending upon your market, it may not hurt to get ahead of some of these shifting interests. Some of the most interesting changes are reflected in a recent infographic from Foursquare (see below).

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Avanoo Trains Employees in Three Minutes a Day

Training and educating team members can seem like a tedious task for any business. But Avanoo does employees  training in small increments so that it can actually be effective and helpful, without stealing away hours of productivity. Read more about Avanoo and the training the company offers in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Social Media

The Next Logical Step In Facebook’s Video March?

Facebook has been increasing its video content features in an effort to compete with rival YouTube. And that includes Facebook video advertising. As a next logical step in Facebook’s video march, the company has now launched a new option for advertisers to bid for 10-second video views on a cost-per-view basis.

Facebook Professional Services Find Plumbers, Others by Ratings

Looking for a good plumber or a highly recommended wedding photographer? You will soon be able to find local service providers on Facebook. The social networking giant has quietly launched a new feature called Facebook Professional Services that directs you to the best rated and reviewed service providers in your area.


Recent IRS Case Highlights Need for “Sophisticated” Small Business Management

Nick’s Roast Beef celebrated its 40th year in operation in 2015, something about which most mom-and-pop shops can only dream. It wasn’t long after the birthday celebration, however, that the owners were forced to wake up from that dream when they were indicted on 17 federal criminal counts.

The Valuation of Early Stage Companies has Risen Sharply

The valuation of early stage venture capital-backed startups jumped dramatically in 2013 and 2014, after modest increases over the previous nine years, data from law firm Cooley LLP reveals. Cooley reports the typical valuation of companies in transactions in which the firm served as issuing counsel either to the investors or to the company raising money.

Drone and Operator Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “In The News: AdSense Updates Mobile Ads, FAA Requires Drone Registration” was first published on Small Business Trends


S&P 500 slide flirts with loss for 2015

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Energy stocks drained as crude’s recovery falters and US jobless claims jump

Overgas ‘to Get Supplies’ from Bulgargaz to Avoid Gas Halt

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Bulgarian state-owned gas supplier Bulgargaz and private Bulgarian-Russian company Overgaz have signed a contract providing for latter to receive gas from the state supplier and avoid a halt in deliveries to customers from January 1.

Overgas, Inc. provides gas to tens of thousands of households and over 3000 industrial consumers. On Wednesday, Bulgarian officials reported that they had received a copy of a letter to Overgas from Gazprom Export reading that supplies would be halted on January 1.

No reason was initially indicated, but Russia later revealed it was in talks with Overgas to “settle commercial issues”.

Jacklen Cohen, CEO of the Bulgarian Energy Holding (which owns Bulgargaz), announced the deal on Thursday afternoon, at a press briefing after an emergency meeting of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov with BEH and Bulgargaz officials at the Council of Ministers’ building in Sofia.

TV stations showed Borisov explaining to reporters that if the government had not reacted to the developments by convening energy officials, Overgas consumers would have had to accept a halt in supplies starting at midnight on January 1.

“I don’t want to talk about scenarios, I don’t want to talk about conspiracies, you should judge by yourselves if this letter should be sent to us a few hours before thousands of households and businesses run out of gas. I leave it up to you to comment if this is normal,” he warned.

Borisov also made clear the cabinet could guarantee to gas consumers they would continue to receive deliveries at prices already agreed.

Cohen for his part said state authorities taken steps “bordering the impossible” to arrange and coordinate with Gazprom the new deliveries to Overgas – a move that Gazprom might have interpreted as a breach of long-term contracts with Bulgargaz.

Overgas, however, insists it has not been notified that gas deliveries will be halted. Several media outlets quote Overgaz press office head Neri Terzieva as saying her company has not received any letter from Gazprom Export warning of an upcoming halt in supplies.

“I am waiting for a comment on the attempt at stealing a business,” reportrs Terzieva as saying.


3 Digital Security Predictions for 2016

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

digital security

Digital security is a mess. An absolute mess.

This past year saw the affair-finding website Ashley Madison have their user base exposed; the second largest health insurer, Anthem, got hacked and their clients medical and personal information was stolen; and cars were hacked which allowed for the car to be remotely driven off the road and have air bags deployed. Even hackers got hacked!

What does that mean for the future?

So with all of these blunders and mess ups in mind, let’s take a look at the coming year ahead and predict what security is going to look like in 2016.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Despite all the high profile breaches in 2015, there will still be more. Why? Because people are still following poor security practices. Back in 2014, security researchers at IBM did a study on cyber attacks. They found that 95 percent of successful hack attacks were because of human error. It doesn’t matter if the software itself continues to evolve to higher levels of security such as better encryption and compliance certifications, the people using the software are going to make mistakes.  

To put it another way: you could have the strongest and most uncrackable safe in the world, but that won’t stop an intruder if it’s left unlocked.

Yes, there have been and will be greater efforts from both governments and private organizations to secure data. For example, Google is testing the option of using your phone as an alternative to remembering your password. It’s a step in the right direction, but education is one of the strongest defenses against a hack and that is woefully lacking. Employees still open dodgy attachments, companies don’t update their systems, and people just can’t seem to stop using “123456” as a password. 

For that reason, 2016 will likely see the news dominated by reports of hack attacks.

Malware on Mobile

With over a billion Android users worldwide, it should come as no surprise that there will be lots of problems with security for mobile devices in 2016. As more businesses continue to use their mobile devices as indispensable tools for their business, they will also risk putting more sensitive company data on their phones. As mentioned above, human error is going to play significant part in this. 

However, human error with mobile devices is a little bit more forgivable because their app stores are still somewhat of a digital Wild West. Just in time for the holiday season, cyber security firms spotted that Bible and Quran apps are actually hiding malicious malware in them. It’s not the first time the Google Play store has had problems with malware and to a degree, it’s understandable that users might not be able to tell if an app is dodgy. Apple’s “walled garden” also isn’t immune to dodgy software.

XCode, the programming framework that Apple and developers use to design apps, was spoofed and used to put dodgy apps on China’s App Store. Regardless of whether it’s Apple or Android, they will be a target for hackers. Although some of this can be prevented by MDM (Mobile Device Management) software that allows for companies to monitor all phones on their network, companies in 2016 need to keep an eye on work devices and make sure that their data isn’t running the risk of being exposed.

If You Wear It, They will Hack It

Even though the Apple Watch wasn’t the game changer that lots of people expected it to be, it still was an accurate reflection of the coming future of wearables. These (often) little devices are a treasure trove of sensitive data. And I’m not just talking about watches that have access to company emails or contacts.

The rise of health-related wearables, such as the Fitbit, are going to be targets of attacks. Those wristbands monitoring health provide valuable info such as your medical state (your heart rate) and GPS info. What makes it worse is that wearable software (and IoT devices, for that matter) doesn’t necessarily have a unified design framework and is still in the early stages when integrations can be clumsy and lead to vulnerabilities.

Unless a wearable device is absolutely vital to your business, it’s probably a good idea to hold off incorporating one into your company.

Be Smart, Be Practical

This isn’t meant to scare you like so many security articles do, but to give you an idea of what to expect and what you should consider when it comes to your company.Moving forward into 2016, the best advice I can give you is to make sure that your company’s software is up-to-date, keep up on the latest news regarding security (but don’t let it scare you), and please oh please, don’t store your customers data somewhere that’s not secure.

Fortune Teller Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “3 Digital Security Predictions for 2016” was first published on Small Business Trends


S&P 500 slide points to loss for 2015

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Energy stocks drained as crude’s recovery falters and US jobless claims jump

New Year’s Resolution Checklist for Small Businesses

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

checklist for small businesses

I know, I know. It’s hard to start thinking about the New Year when we’re stuck in the middle of the hectic holidays. But with January 1 right around the corner, now is the perfect time to reflect on how to grow your business in 2016.

As a fellow small business owners and solopreneur, I know first-hand how tricky it can be to even find the time to think about business development. Some days we’re so busy juggling our current client demands, big picture goals — publishing great thought leadership articles, going after a dream client — take a back seat to a ringing phone or email deluge. One trick I’ve learned the hard way over the years? Taking advantage of free or low-cost apps and services to manage the “background noise” associated with day-to-day operations.

This year, resolve to minimize stress and make your life that much easier. Get started with this handy New Year’s Resolutions checklist for small businesses:

Resolution #1: Do More with Social Media

Have a Facebook account but rarely use it? Wish you had time to actually respond to customer tweets or finally get your Instagram up and running? Take the pain out of social media management with Hootsuite Pro. Designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses, Hootsuite Pro is packed with intuitive features that make it simple to manage, engage and measure your social media activity without losing a huge chunk of your day to the Twittersphere.

Your to-do: Getting active on multiple social media channels at once can be overwhelming. Start by focusing your attention on one network. Sign up for Hootsuite’s free, 30-day trial. Use the service to schedule your posts in advance and hone in on relevant conversations about your brand. Analyze campaign performance: which posts resulted in the most follower engagement? How can you use this feedback to strengthen your social media activity?

Resolution #2: Stop Wasting Time and Money on Ad Hoc Accounting

This is a big one, folks. Do you find yourself scrambling for receipts come tax time? Are you still manually tracking expenses in a Google doc or Excel chart? Do you promise every year to finally get a better system in place but never seem to get around to hiring an accountant? Put an end to the bookkeeping madness with affordable (or free!) accounting solutions. Both Wave and Freshbooks are simple and intuitive to use with thousands of satisfied small business customers.

Your to-do: Get started with either Wave or Freshbooks (I’m a fan of both). These cloud-based accounting solutions are built specifically to make life easier for small business owners, helping us stay organized and get paid. Track time, log expenses, send automatic client invoices, and more. Plus, both Wave and Freshbooks offer credit card processing for even faster payment.

Resolution #3: Get a Leg Up on the Competition with Continuing Education

Continuing education is a must for small business owners, but unless there’s a certification renewal required for our jobs, most of us put these classes off on the back burner. The result: from accounting to marketing, we keep doing things the same way we always have– oftentimes missing out on better, easier solutions. From public speaking to grant writing, make this the year you conquer a professional fear, learn a new skill, and grow your professional network while doing so.

Your to-do: What skill would you most like to improve? What is your weakest spot as a small business owner? Maybe you’d like to brush up on your accounting basics, take an industry mastery class, or finally master the basics of online marketing. Start by committing to learn one new skill. Sign up for a class at a local community college or enroll in an online training course. Challenge friends or colleagues to expand their skillset by taking the class with you. It’s great to have an accountability partner!

Resolution #4: Put an End to Project Collaboration Woes

When your small business team of freelancers and telecommuters is spread out over several time zones (and not several cubicles), minor project miscommunications can snowball into major problems, throwing the entire team off track. This year, resolve to get everyone on the same page from day one with an easy-to-use project collaboration platform. Two of my personal favorites are Wrike and Trello, both of which make the on-boarding process a piece of cake.

Your to-do: Get the whole team set up from the beginning of January to use your preferred project management app. Set priorities and monitor your team’s progress. Review and approve completed tasks and assign new ones. Use the real-time workspace for document sharing and dynamic collaboration. Stay on track with a birds-eye-view of your team’s workload and deadlines, so you know weeks out (rather than hours out) if a delay will affect an on-time and on-budget project completion. Happier clients and happier team members make for a much more enjoyable work environment.

Bottom Line

In 2016, my business resolution is to improve my bookkeeping process, put more focus on email marketing, and help a new charity/nonprofit. What are your professional resolutions for 2016? I invite you to share them in the comments section below.

New Year’s Goals Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “New Year’s Resolution Checklist for Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends


Russia Says Gazprom in Talks with Overgas over ‘Commercial Issues’

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Russia is carrying out talks with Bulgarian-Russian company Overgas to settle “trade issues” of the past few years, but will continue delivering natural gas to Bulgaria, TASS quotes the Foreign Ministy in Moscow as saying.

“Bulgaria will not be left without natural gas,” the statement also reads.

On Wednesday, the Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) reported it had received a copy of a letter from Russian energy giant Gazprom Export to Overgas, Inc. announcing supplies would come to a halt as of January 1.

Overgas, Inc. denied having received such a notice.

Russia, however, on Thursday made clear it was working to settle certain issues with company.

“Russia’s Gazprom management, supplies of Russian natural gas to Bulgaria continue seamlessly to state-owned Bulgargas in the amount of 3 billion cubic meters in line with annual demands of the country,” the Foreign Ministry says.

“These may be increased later on. Negotiations in terms of settling commercial issues accumulated in recent years continue with Overgas, cooperation with which provided not more than 10% of the annual gas consumption until now.”

It was reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Boyko Borisov had carried out an urgent meeting with top Bulgarian energy officials, instructing Bulgargaz to prepare to supply natural gas to the private company in case the latter faces a halt in deliveries from January 1.

A second meeting is due later on Thursday, at 17:00 local time (EET).

Overgas, Inc. delivers gas to both industrial consumers and suppliers. Its subsidiary Overgas Mrezhi (”Overgas Network”) provides gas for more than 55 000 households and 3000 businesses. 50% of of it are owned by Gazprom Export.

Recent reports have suggested the Russian concern might be seeking to withdraw from the company.


Gallup Ranks Bulgaria among World’s Most Unhappy Countries

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

More than a third of Bulgarians have said they consider themselves to be “happy” with life, but the country lags behind in terms of “net happiness”, a Gallup International poll has showed.

The annual survey exploring attitudes, opinions and expectation of some 66 040 people in 68 countries, reveals that about 39 percent of respondents in Bulgaria describe themselves as “happy” people, with 9 percent “unhappy”, 47% “in the middle” and the others finding it difficult to answer.

Gallup says net worth of happiness (the share of those who answered “Happy” minus the ones who answered “Unhappy”) in Bulgaria, at 30%, is one of the world’s lowest. The “Happiness Index” ranks Bulgaria as the eight “least happy country” (by net worth) after Iraq, Tunisia, Greece, Afghanistan, Palestine, Ghana, and Hong Kong.

In terms of expectations for 2016, 19% of Bulgarians said they are optimistic and 20% they are pessimistic (43% “neutral” and 18% finding it hard to say). The Southeastern European country, however, is far from being up in the “least optimistic” ranking.

Some sixty-six percent of people around the world describe themselves as “happy”, four percent less than in 2014, whereas 23% say they are neither happy nor unhappy, and 10% answer “unhappy”.


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