Archive for June, 2016

My Awesome Evening at the AT&T Small Business Roundtable

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

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AT&T Small Business Roundtable - Susan Solovic, Bill Rancic, Adam Toren

Earlier this month I wrote that I was collaborating with AT&T Small Business at its first 2016 AT&T Small Business Roundtable.

AT&T flew me to Chicago for the event. And what a night that was.

There was swapping of business cards, snapping of photos, and tweeting and Facebooking. And it was also an exchange of important ideas. The event was part of AT&T’s “Power of &” campaign which is about helping entrepreneurs and small businesses engage in continuous learning to solve business challenges through the power of agility.

Bill Rancic, the first Apprentice winner and now a restaurateur, hosted the evening at one of his terrific restaurants, RPM Steak.

In the networking portion, I was delighted to re-connect with people I know such as experts like Susan Solovic and Adam Toren (pictured with Bill Rancic). Long-time friend, author and entrepreneur Barry Moltz, local to Chicago, also was there. I also met other business owners — and ran into some awesome fans of this website, too. The team back home said “no way!” when I texted and said I’d met site fans at the Roundtable. Here’s a video recap of the event capturing the excitement and energy in the event.

I’d love to share my Chicago experience with you. Here are some key takeaways and things I got out of attending the AT&T Small Business Roundtable:

  • The Roundtable was a central piece of the AT&T “Power of &” campaign. If we entrepreneurs and business owners are going to compete successfully today, we have to be agile. We have to sense trends and changes, and adapt to new environments. If we move fast and leverage technology and services provided by great partners, we can pull ahead of competitors and succeed. That’s what the “Power of &” suggests: thinking of what we do as an “and” working together with business partners like AT&T to be more agile.
  • Roundtable small business participants talked about the many ways the world is changing and how those changes affect our businesses. The range of businesses represented at the event was wide — everything from a distribution business, to a web designer, to an air transportation business, to the operator of startup incubators, to an affiliate marketer, to a small nonprofit — and more.
  • Business owners at the event also raised a wide range of issues as their top concerns. Issues spanned from the upcoming new overtime regulations, to social media overwhelm, to rising health care costs, to changing consumer habits, to affiliate marketing regulations. But no matter what industry you’re in, no matter what the challenges, the successful responses tended to be similar: leverage technology wherever possible, learn, adapt, lean on stronger partners, pivot on a dime when necessary, and persevere. It was a reminder to me in my business to stay nimble and don’t get complacent — and don’t try to go it alone, either.
  • I was impressed with the senior support from AT&T. Attending were the heads of several AT&T departments that serve and support small businesses, as well as Cathy Martine, AT&T Senior Vice President of Corporate Business Solutions. Cathy holds a key role within AT&T when it comes to small businesses. And she couldn’t have been more gracious. She sat down at every table, listening and engaging. The fact that so many AT&T execs were willing to go to Chicago for this event said a lot to me about their commitment and the entire “Power of &” campaign.
  • I also learned a lot about AT&T’s solutions and what AT&T is doing to support small businesses to be more agile. One example: I learned about the AT&T Fiber Ready Building program, where AT&T is proactively connecting buildings to its fiber network. In this way, they are helping small business tenants in those buildings respond with agility to new opportunities, without the need to bear all the cost of installing a fiber infrastructure.

AT&T Small Business Roundtable participants

Be sure to check out Business Circle, the online hub for information about the Power of & campaign, with loads of advice, pointers and insights.  And go here to learn more about the power of agility.

Oh, and I’d like to also announce the winner of our Windows Lumia 950 phone giveaway (courtesy of AT&T – thank you!).  The winner is … Jenny Ham from Kansas!  Congratulations, Jenny — your phone will be on its way to you shortly.

AT&T Small Business Roundtable - Barry Moltz in middle

NOTE: This is a sponsored article and I am being compensated by AT&T to participate in the “Power of &” campaign.  All thoughts and opinions are my own, however.

This article, “My Awesome Evening at the AT&T Small Business Roundtable” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Social Media Email Marketing - How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement

Despite occasionally being mocked as a relatively archaic marketing method, email marketing remains a fantastic tool for almost any business. Because it doesn’t require any monetary investment (beyond a management platform, which tends to be an inexpensive item), and because it tends to grow in effectiveness over time as you attract more subscribers, it has enormous ROI potential all on its own.

However, the real power of email marketing is its ability to integrate with other marketing strategies. It can be used as a funnel for leads generated by other means, a showcase for your most popular content, and perhaps most importantly, a facilitator of greater social media engagement. How can email marketing best brandish this power?

Social Media Email Marketing Engagement Tips

Basic Prerequisites

First, let’s take a look at some of the prerequisites for this approach. These are a handful of features and tactics that your email strategy needs to have in place before you can even start attracting more social engagement:

  • Include social share icons. This is a basic necessity. The body of your email template needs to include links to your social media profiles in the header or the footer, at a minimum. You should also have “share” icons throughout your work that enable your users to share snippets of content they find interesting with one click. The easier you make it for your users to share, the more they’re going to share.
  • Embed featured posts. Interesting content is highly shareable, so no matter what the core purpose of your email blast is, you should include at least one piece of top-performing content from your content strategy (such as a particularly popular blog post). Embed this into your email, and of course, include share icons.
  • Call users to action. Sometimes your readers will need a helpful nudge in the right direction before they take an action. Don’t be afraid to ask your users to get involved in a social context directly. For example, you can ask users to share your latest post, or include some incentive for sharing something, such as an entry in a giveaway.

Include Shareable Content

In addition to embedding posts from your blog, you may want to offer exclusive forms of content to your email subscribers. If earning more social shares and social visibility is one of your primary goals, you should make that content as shareable as possible. Make it fast, concise, easy-to-read, and make sure you choose a topic that’s valuable for your audience. Even better, establish some kind of emotional connection by evoking humor, sympathy, or surprise. The basic tenets of viral content can help you here, but remember your limitations with email engagement — keep this content above the fold, and make it easy for your viewers to skim and share this content.

Make Exclusive Offers (That Users Can Share Anyway)

Exclusive offers reward your email subscribers, but if you want to make the most of these offers, you should allow your email recipients to share them with their social followings anyway. The degree of exclusivity will still be present enough for your subscribers to appreciate the gesture, but you’ll gain visibility across multiple new audiences. Your readers will be incentivized to share these offers because they’ll feel a sense of pride in doing so — not only are they doing a favor to all their followers, they’re showing off their own status, to a certain degree. The exact nature and significance of the offer is up to you — discounts, giveaways, and specialty items work well here, and consider escalating the objective value of your offer based on how desperate you are for more shares.

Announce Contests (and Winners)

Contests are a powerful form of social media engagement, and email blasts are a great way to increase awareness of them. A good contest, announced over email, could encourage a subscriber who isn’t currently following you to finally make the jump. And if a subscriber is already following you, they’ll be likely to share the contest opportunity with their own friends and followers. Once the contest is over, you can also announce your contest winners via email to further showcase the benefits of being an active member of your brand community.

Feedback Loops

Finally, remember that email marketing and social media marketing are mutually beneficial strategies. Throughout this article, I’ve mostly discussed ways that email marketing can bring you more social media followers, but don’t forget that social media marketing can bring you more email subscribers as well. Show off the benefits of being an email subscriber in your social media news feeds, such as by announcing exclusive content or exclusive discounts, and provide regular calls to action for users to sign up for your lists. Keep these strategies tightly interlinked, and you’ll greatly enhance your performance in both areas.

Email Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Use Email Marketing to Drive Social Engagement” was first published on Small Business Trends

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UK move to set CO2 target faces challenge

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Lord Lawson think-tank says Brexit may render binding goal on cuts illegal

Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations

NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends for May 2016 shows (PDF) more businesses plan to increase employment as compared with the month before. Hiring new employees to meet your company’s growing needs may be a smart business move, but there are consequences to consider. It will cost you more in wages, payroll taxes and employee benefits. You also face an array of federal laws with which you must comply. And you may lose out on certain federal tax breaks.

Employer Obligations When Adding More Staff

Here’s how the number of employees affects you:

Complying with Federal Labor Laws

While most employers always try to act fairly, federal law imposes special obligations on those with staffs that exceed set limits:

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA). This law requires you to provide minimum essential health coverage to full-time workers and their dependents or pay a penalty. It applies if you have at least 50 full-time and full-time equivalent employees.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This law prohibits discrimination against workers and job applicants age 40 or older. It applies if you have at least 20 employees.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability and requires you to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. It applies if you have at least 15 employees.
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). If you offer health coverage to employees, you must offer those who leave the opportunity to continue their coverage for 18 months (additional requirements apply for spouses and dependents). It applies if you have at least 20 employees.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law requires you to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for an immediate family member with a serious illness. It applies if you have at least 50 employees.
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This law prevents discrimination on the basis of DNA information (e.g., not hiring someone because she has a greater risk of getting breast cancer). It applies if you have at least 15 employees.

Employers are required to permit nursing mothers reasonable break time to nurse or express milk. However, employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this break time requirement if compliance would impose an undue hardship.

Losing Out on Tax Breaks

Some federal tax breaks can be used only if you are a small employer. You lose the opportunity to claim them when you become too big. Here are the numbers:

  • Credit for starting a retirement plan. This is a credit of 50 percent of expenses up to $1,000 ($500) for starting a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k), for your staff; it can be claimed for three years. It applies only if you have no more than 100 employees.
  • Disabled access credit. This is a credit of 50 percent of costs over $250 but not over $10,250 to make your premises accessible. It applies only if you have no more than 30 employees.
  • Small employer health insurance credit. This is a credit of up to 50 percent of the premiums you pay for your employees. It applies only if you have no more than 25 full-time and full-time equivalent employees.
  • Wage differential credit for activated reservists. You can take a tax credit for continuing the wages of workers called to active duty. The credit is 20 percent of the differential up to $20,000 (top credit of $4,000). It applies only if you have fewer than 50 employees.

Thoughts About Compliance

Of course, even if you don’t meet the employee threshold for applicability, you probably strive to comply with federal laws. For example, even if you don’t have 20 employees, you don’t want to discriminate against older workers because it’s the right thing to do (and you don’t want to expose yourself to litigation).

Don’t assume that federal laws are your only obligations. States may have their own rules, imposing obligations even if you have too few employees to trigger federal law.

You can find a complete list of federal labor laws by the number of employees from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). When you have any questions about these or other employer obligations, talk to an employment law attorney. The cost of legal advice usually is much lower than the cost of government penalties or employee litigation. When you have questions about tax laws, talk with your tax advisor.

Image: NFIB

This article, “Expanding Your Staff: The Impact on Your Employer Obligations” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Bulgaria Calls for Extra Vigilance in Travel to Turkey

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Bulgarian citizens wishing to visit Istanbul must exercise increased caution and strictly follow the orders of security officers in case of crisis situation, the foreign ministry said on Thursday in the wake of the deadly terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.

Citizens travelling to Turkey should have in mind “that the threat of terrorist acts remains high,” the ministry said in a travel warning on its website.

Places with high risk of becoming targets of terror attacks are precisely the sites frequented by Bulgarian visitors - tourist landmarks, squares, shopping malls, stadiums and sports halls as well as ports, railway stations and airports, the ministry said.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov advised Bulgarian citizens leaving for Turkey to register beforehand at the website of the ministry.

The terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk international airport on Tuesday night claimed the lives of 44 people and injured more than 230.

 

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Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov Moves into 3rd Round of Wimbledon Tournament

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Bulgaria’s top male tennis player Grigor Dimitrov proceeds to the the third round at the Wimbledon tournament after defeating 16th seed Gilles Simon of France on Thursday.

Dimitrov beat Simon 6-3 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4 on day four of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

The Bulgarian will meet Steve Johnson of the USA in the third round.

Grigor Dimitrov reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2014. Last year, Dimitrov reached the third round of the tournament.

 

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Unions urge EDF to delay Hinkley decision

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Three labour groups say Brexit vote means it is necessary to postpone board sign-off on project

Russia’s Envoy to NATO Warns of ‘Additional Precautions’ in Black Sea Area

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Russia’s permanent representative to NATO Alexander Grushko has said that NATO’s military build-up in the Black Sea region will force Moscow “to take additional precautions”, according to TASS.

If NATO continued to increase its strength in the Black Sea region, particularlythrough the involvement of non-Black Sea countries, this will make us take additional precautions with taking into account the strategic location of Crimea and our interests in the south, the Russian news agency quoted Grushko as saying to reporters on Thursday.

The Russian diplomat also said that Moscow wanted the Black Sea to remain a region of·cooperation and interaction” despite all the difficulties.

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Bulgarian President Reaffirms Support for Ukraine’s European Future

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev reaffirmed the country’s support for Ukraine’s European future during a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Sofia on Thursday.

Poroshenko is paying a one-day official visit to Bulgaria, the first by a Ukrainian head of state in 15 years.

Bulgaria welcomes the reforms in key areas of Ukraine’s social and political life including the constitutional reform and efforts in the fight against corruption, Plevneliev said at the meeting with Poroshenko, according to a statement issued by the President’s Office in Sofia.

Bulgaria supports the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and international efforts to resolve the crisis in eastern Ukraine by diplomatic means, Plevneliev said at a joint press conference with Poroshenko.

“Bulgaria does not recognize the results of the referendum organized by the self-proclaimed authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk. The need for full implementation of the commitments of all parties to the conflict under the Minsk arrangements remains without alternative,” Plevneliev said, according to the statement.

“We do not recognize and will never recognize the illegal occupation and annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation. I have said many times: for us, Crimea is Ukraine and Ukraine is Europe,” Plevneliev added.

The two presidents agreed that the crisis in Ukraine continues to generate threats not only to the Black Sea region but also on a global scale.

Bulgaria appreciates the importance of Ukraine as a partner nation of NATO, as well intensified dialogue within the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Plevneliev said. NATO defence ministers had agreedto increase support for Ukraine through a comprehensive package of assistance measureswhich is expected to be approved at the Aliiance’s summit in Warsaw next month, Plevneliev added.

 

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Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation

Transportation job postings are much more highly concentrated in small business compared to businesses of all sizes, with over a quarter of all small business job postings in the transportation sector. This represents strong demand for jobs like truck and delivery drivers.

The American Trucking Tonnage Index remains above its level from the same time last year, due in part to favorable fuel prices and the continued rise in online shopping, says Daniel Culbertson, economic research analyst at Indeed.

“Small businesses are once again competing with other size businesses for this type of role and there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown,” he says.

Small Business Jobs Related to Transportation on the Rise

According to Indeed’s data on job postings from small businesses, 27 percent of them were in the transportation sector. That is twice as many as the second most in demand jobs being advertised by small businesses nationwide.

Jobs in management rank No. 2 in Indeed’s jobs listings data. A total of 12 percent of job ads were for management.

Healthcare jobs (No. 3 on Indeed’s list) and computer/tech occupations are still in demand from some of the recession-proof industries that are also hiring at a high rate. Still, though, only 8 percent and 7 percent of all small business job listings are for people with these skill sets.

“Healthcare and tech are this economy’s industry stalwarts and will remain in demand for the foreseeable future,” Culbertson says.

The other most in-demand jobs for small businesses are sales, business and finance, personal care and service, food prep and service, healthcare support and productions operator.

Image: Indeed

This article, “Small Businesses Posting More Jobs Related to Transportation” was first published on Small Business Trends

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