Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

January Women in Cloud Summit Happens at Microsoft Headquarters

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

The goal of Women in Cloud is to further the success of women entrepreneurs in tech by creating partnership opportunities and programs with innovative companies.

The Women In Cloud Summit 2019 will be held at Microsoft Building 33 in Redmond, WA from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm on Saturday, January 26, 2019 to do just that.

Why is it so important to introduce technology to women-owned businesses? Because 39% of small business are owned by women. This accounts for $1.7 trillion in revenue to the US economy and around 9 million jobs.

Using technology will translate into increased efficiency, productivity, revenue, growth, jobs and more.

The 2019 summit is the year to ACCELERATE women.

The summit will connect attendees with cloud industry leaders, women-led cloud companies and allies with acceleration programs to grow the careers and business of women.

Click the red button and attend the summit.

Register Now



Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Women In Cloud Annual Summit 2019Women In Cloud Annual Summit 2019
January 26, 2019, Redmond, Wash.

This Summit will connect you, cloud industry leaders, women-led cloud companies and allies of all types. The 2019 Summit will explore providing ways to leverage and adopt cloud technologies to innovate, giving women access to personal and cloud-related skills development, accelerating ideas and access to resources including strategic partnerships, and identifying new ways to acquire customers & drive customer obsession. Join us Sat, January 26, 2019, 9:00 AM – 7:30 PM PST. Register today!


Social Media Marketing WorldSocial Media Marketing World
March 20, 2019, San Dieg, Calif.

Discover the best social media marketing techniques from the world’s top experts. Experience three phenomenal days with the best social marketers, discover the latest tactics, and master social media in 2019. Join 7,000 fellow marketers and influencers at the mega-conference designed to empower you with business-building ideas — brought to you by Social Media Examiner.


Beachpreneurs Beach Camp 5Beachpreneurs Beach Camp 5
April 26, 2019, Daytona Beach, Fla.

For starters, we’re for Women Entrepreneurs only. During Beach Camp, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn, apply and mastermind with warm successful women. You’ll also have time to sleep in and you’ll get long breaks to relax and walk the beach or go for a swim. We didn’t create a conference at the beach just to lock you away in a conference room from dawn til dusk. Beach Camp is a lifestyle focused event so you’ll be spending as much time enjoying your life as you will be focusing on your business. Join us today!


More Events

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends.

You can see a full list of events, contest and award listings or post your own events by visiting the Small Business Events Calendar.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “January Women in Cloud Summit Happens at Microsoft Headquarters” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Tips for Building an Effective Online Presence for Your Business

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Your company’s online presence is an important part of your overall brand. Whether you run a local shop or a business that’s completely online, it’s important to pay close attention to your full online presence. Here are some tips from members of the online small business community to help you make the most of all the online tools available to spread the word about your brand.

Build an Online Presence That Establishes You as an Expert

All of the different aspects of your online presence, from your website to your social media profiles, contribute to your overall reputation. To establish yourself as an expert online, read this Pixel Productions post by Craig Evans. Then see what BizSugar members are saying about the post here.

Find a Domain Name That Guarantees Success

The domain that you select for your business website can make a major impact on potential customers’ ability to find you online. So it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. To choose a domain name that ensures success, check out the tips in this UpMixed post by Thomas Saacke.

Make Your Social Media and Email Marketing Work Together

Social media and email campaigns are both important parts of marketing a small business. But they don’t often work together in tandem. However, you could be missing out by not leveraging these two methods together. Learn more in this GetResponse post by Krista Liebmann.

Improve Your SEO with Social Media

Search engines are one of the most powerful traffic sources you can utilize for your website. Many businesses tend to manage their SEO and social media separately, but there are actually some benefits to utilizing them to complement one another. In this Social Media HQ post, David Webb explains how you can improve your SEO using social media.

Measure Your Content Marketing Success

Content marketing can also make a major impact on your SEO and the success of your online presence. But to create successful content, you need to know what’s most likely to work. So you need a system for measuring results. Lane Ellis elaborates in this Top Rank Marketing post.

Boost Your Business Growth Online

To really grow your reach online, it may help to diversify your strategies a bit. You can make use of everything from ads to reviews. To utilize the power of the internet to really grow your small business, read this Biz Epic post by Ivan Widjaya.

Start Your Own Online Store

Even if your small business isn’t specifically related to ecommerce, you may be able to add another income stream to your business by creating your own online store. This can potentially boost your website and boost your bottom line. Stewart Dunlop offers some tips in this Smallbiztechnology.com post.

Create a Social Media Strategy That Delivers

As you determine what type of content to post to your social media channels, you need to always consider how those posts can actually convert customers and deliver for your business. Yev Pusin shares tips for doing just that in this Backblaze post. Then BizSugar members commented on the post here.

Optimize Your Contact Page for Conversions

The contact page may be an overlooked part of your website. The people who visit this page are fairly likely to be interested in your offerings. So it’s really an opportunity for you to convert new customers. Gary Shouldis of 3Bug Media shares a video and explanation in this post.

Don’t Miss Out on Paid Search Opportunities

If you use paid search to expand your reach online, you could be missing out on some major opportunities for growth. In this Search Engine Land post, Mona Elesseily describes some of the top mistakes that businesses of all sizes tend to make and explains how you can avoid them in your own campaigns.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “10 Tips for Building an Effective Online Presence for Your Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Secrets about Shopper Behavior Eye Tracking Reveals

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

10 Shopper Behavior Secrets Eye Tracking is Revealing

Simply put, eye tracking is mapping what consumers are looking at. There’s hardware that actually tracks the eye’s movements and software that analyzes the data. Small Business Trends asked Mike Bartels, senior research director at Tobii Pro Insight, to explain how and why this technology is important to small business and to supply 10 behavior secrets it uncovers.

Bartels started by walking us through the process. While there are a million different variations, he says,  they all follow the same steps. First, a sample of consumers are asked to wear specialized eye tracking glasses or face a specially equipped computer.

“Then they perform whatever behavior is of interest to the company commissioning the research –  shopping in a store, using a website, walking through an airport, or completing any number of other consumer behaviors,” he writes in an email.  “The researchers are able to watch a live feed of each consumer’s attention in real-time and through subsequent data analysis answer a number of critical questions about their customers.”

Looking for Specifics

These researchers are looking for specifics like which ads are noticed more than others, which packages stand out on store shelves and generally what catches the consumer’s eye as they walk in a store. Sitting in front of a computer allows these experts to see what text gets the most attention on a website too.

Not surprisingly, Bartels stands behinds the technology as a great tool for small businesses.

“In my opinion, there is no better tool than eye tracking for getting inside the mind of the shopper, no matter if you have 100 customers a week or 100,000. We’ve conducted research on consumer attention in auto showrooms, at mall kiosks, in restaurants, at coffee shops, and in convenience stores. Improving the customer experience and increasing conversion is equally important for any business, big or small.”

Eye Tracking Shopper Behavior Results Revealed

So what are the 10 shopping behavior secrets that eye tracking is revealing?   Bartels brings his 12 years of experience to bear and supplies a number based on Tobii Pro Insight studies.

Top Shelf Isn’t Best

The top shelf is the least visible place in the grocery store.

“Shoppers tend to angle their gaze at eye level and below, and the top shelf tends to receive little or no attention,” Bartels writes.

Aisle Length Matters

The length of the aisle makes a  difference. When they are longer shoppers eyes are drawn to shelf levels 2 – 5. With shorter aisles, they concentrate more on upper and lower shelves.

 The Three Feet Rule Is Important

“The first three-feet of the aisle is recommended for placement of attention-grabbing products,” Bartels says.   “Most shoppers use the products in this space as a signpost for the aisle, instead of looking up to read the hanging category signage.”

Signs Need To Be Simple

Tobii Pro Insight reports that in store signs get less than 2 seconds of attention. That’s why small businesses need to focus on making them concise,  straight forward and brand focused.

 Signs Need To Be High In Malls

Elevated signs in malls do best during holidays and other seasons when there’s a lot of foot traffic. Standing and floor signs can get lost in the fray when there’s a lot of people  walking around.

Outside Signs Should Be Near The Door

Bartels explains why this placement is important:

“That’s where people are focusing as they approach the building,” he says. “They should also be large since shoppers are often viewing them from great distance as they approach.”

Impulse Racks Work Better In Checkout Lines

Impulse purchase racks should be located near checkouts where customers need to wait in line. Self checkout files aren’t the best place for these because shoppers are more focused on checking out their own items and less likely to be looking around.

Videos Grab Attention

Not a big surprise here overall, but videos are a great way to grab a prospect’s attention on a webpage.

Visual Clues Matter

Research shows that visual clues are an important way to direct a consumer’s gaze. A puppy looking directly at a consumer will hold their attention. That same dog looking at some text on a webpage will lead the shopper to those words.

Shoppers Read The Same Way

Remember that research shows most people read from the left to right in what’s commonly called the The F pattern. Understanding how their eyes move across your text should help you to design effective landing pages.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Secrets about Shopper Behavior Eye Tracking Reveals” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The Messy Middle Tackles the Hard Work on the Way to a Big Idea

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

The Messy Middle Tackles the Hard Work on the Way to a Big Idea

Experts have a lot to say about starting a business, and even about finding success. But what about advice for how to manage the critical intermediate challenges that certainly appear when an organization is growing?

One author that tackles those challenges is Scott Belsky through his latest book The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through The Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture.   Belsky is a veteran entrepreneur, having launched and sold ventures such as Behance, the world’s leading creative network, and 99U, a productivity conference and think tank.  He is currently the Chief Product Officer at Adobe.

Touted as “the opposite of a success memoir”, The Messy Middle delves into core truths Belsky learned from his entrepreneurial ventures that can help aspiring teams adjust their business models rather than scratch their heads in wonderment.

What Is The Messy Middle About?

Belsky wrote the book to address topics that he found fellow entrepreneurs seldom discuss.  No one talked about the bumps in the road — just how something was great until it failed.

The book is partitioned into three sections: Endure, Optimize, and Final Mile. Each is meant to expose the core influences on entrepreneurial struggles at each part of the journey.   Optimize is the largest section, containing segments that complement the varying aspects of a growing enterprise, from team formation and leadership to product development decisions and communication among the team.  I like how that decision of section size mirrors Belsky’s theme of a grand middle.

What I Liked about The Messy Middle 

I like the ambition Belsky brings to the subject material.  There are 416 pages that speak to just about anybody who is on the entrepreneurial journey, but it never feels as if Belsky is trying too hard to justify an idea.  Moreover, none of the ideas are stale, a refreshing feat for a book of this length.

Segment titles are very direct, such as “To Be Done Is To Die” — but Belsky makes sure each foray into intriguing explicitness is supported with specific advise or insight. When he writes about achieving leadership influence while avoiding narcissism, he delivers it with exquisite phrasing.  The segment titled  “The More Credit You Need, The Less Influence You Have” is wonderfully meme-worthy. Belsky writes to expand that clever title with superb clarity:

“It’s only natural to want short-term affirmation, and you’re liable to over attribute success to yourself and failures to others. But by doing the opposite, you’ll feed your team’s potential rather than assuage your own insecurities,” he writes.

A few ideas speak to solopreneurs, the introverts, and those laboring under imposter syndrome’s spell.  In the segment  “Take Note of Your Insecurity Work” Belsky helps the reader identify and organize tasks that may feel good but accomplishes nothing.

“When you’re anxious about your business, there is no easier quick-relief antidote than checking things,” he writes. “The problem is that you could spend all day checking things and fail to do anything to change things….When you spend 30 minutes going down a rabbit hole to answer a particular question , be sure to ask yourself “Why is this question important and how is the answer actionable?”

Belsky also leverages the experiences of other leaders. He shares the insights from Pinterest CEO and cofounder Ben Silberman.  Check out this comment on establishing a long view of entrepreneurship by envisioning steps along the way.

“Ben breaks up every period of his company into chapters, each with a beginning, goal, reflection period, and reward,” Belsky writes. “For example, a few years after the business was founded – once Pinterest’s website had a loyal and rapidly growing base of users – the company embarked on a new chapter to “become a mobile service”….What I liked about Ben’s chapters approach is that each one applies to everyone in the company and embodies a goal rather than a tactic. Each chapter requires a fresh perspective on the product, renewed empathy with the product’s users, ”

Other segments offer meaningful guidance, though some of the topics are only complementary material for other books with specific knowledge.   The segment Data Is Only As Good As Its Source and Doesn’t Replace Intuition does not have an in-depth rigor like Eric Siegel’s Predictive Analytics, but does offer the right perspective to consider data against intuition.

The last few segments, grouped under “Never Being Finished”, can seem a bit too quirky to be insightful, but when you do take the ideas in, you get a refreshed look into life balance (“You Are Not Your Work” and “Your Either Part of The Living Or The Dying”) and reexamining setbacks from wrong decisions (“Continuing To Learn Is An Elixir To Life”).

Other Reads to Consider

Readers seeking a deep subject treatment of business aspects may want  to pair this book with lslands of Profit In A Sea of Red Ink, Revenue and The CMO, or Data Driven Marketing.  My all-time startup favorite resource, David Gladstone’s Venture Capital Investing, is a good pairing with this book, too.  These book combinations can aid organizations that are in a messy middle of their own and must incorporate innovative problem-solving tactics.

Why The Messy Middle

Small business teams and evolving start up teams will find The Messy Middle useful for refining every aspect of their game.  The book will teach a team how to through hardships to the valuable lesson on operations or outlook on a market.

With The Messy Middle, Belsky delivers a brilliant book that goes past dogma and slogans into key tactics and ideas. While many authors claim their book will take you to the next level, Belsky makes an earnest and successful attempt to help business leaders and teams get to that level through logical decisions to keep a bold business venture alive.

Image: Amazon

This article, “The Messy Middle Tackles the Hard Work on the Way to a Big Idea” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Grant Hill and Nzinga Shaw of the Atlanta Hawks: Inclusion and Diversity are Good for Business and Must Start at the Top of the Organization

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Atlanta Hawks Grant Hill, Nzinga Shaw: Inclusion, Diversity is good Business

If you’re a longtime sports fan like me, you’ve probably heard of Grant Hill.  He was the guy who threw “the pass” to Christian Laettner that led to him hitting “the shot” that beat Kentucky in the Eastern Regional Final in 1992 that put Duke into the Final Four, which they eventually ended up winning.  From there, Hill went on to the NBA where he played for 19 years, and earlier this year he was voted in to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

While many of you probably knew that, you might not have known that he went from playing on the court to being a co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks — also serving as Vice Chair of the organization. And last week I had the honor of hosting a conversation with Hill and Nzinga Shaw, the Hawks Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, during the Diversity in Tech Summit held in conjunction with Salesforce’s World Tour Stop in Atlanta.  The event was organized in partnership with The Atlanta Tribune: the Magazine.

Shaw, who is the first person to hold such a position in a professional team sport in the US, and Hill discussed a number of interesting issues around leadership, the benefits of inclusion and equality, and why diversity has to be part of the corporate culture in order for it work.  Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. To see the full conversation, watch the video below or click on the embedded SoundCloud player.

Small Business Trends: Okay, so, let me start with you Grant, because we just went through, I believe we went through about 27 years just encapsulated, but when you were at Duke with the high top fade getting ready to throw that pass, did you ever imagine or dream that you would actually be an owner in the NBA at that point?

Grant Hill: No. I think back then though, I mean, I had no idea. I wasn’t even sure that the NBA was a possibility and I was sort of in the moment, had a great time at Duke. It was a great experience playing for Coach K. and my teammates and going for, pursuing championships at that time, but it was a lot different back then than it is now.

The NBA wasn’t as accessible and it was just a different time. College basketball was really big and so being an NBA athlete wasn’t necessarily on my radar and definitely the idea or the concept of being an owner of an NBA franchise was not on my radar. Now, in saying that, my father directly, or indirectly, planted the seed. My dad played in the NFL, played back in the 70s and 80s, has worked in professional sports really since the early 80s with the Browns, Cleveland Browns, with the Baltimore Orioles, and for the last 20 plus years, with the Dallas Cowboys. And he tried unsuccessfully during the early nineties and even late eighties to try and put together a group and buy a sports franchise, tried looking to win the Patriots in the ’80s, the Bullets in basketball in the early ’90s and then the Cleveland Browns when they left and then the NFL awarded them a franchise.

So, I had that experience of sort of living through him having planted the seed of possibility at a very young age, but in ’92, with the high top fade and all, I was not thinking about … All I was thinking about completing the pass and making sure I stayed eligible for the next semester.

Small Business Trends: Nzinga we just talked about you taking this position, the first of its kind in professional sports [CDIO – Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer]. When you were brought that opportunity, what were your first impressions, what did you want to do with it?

Nzinga Shaw: Well it was a very unique situation Brent, because at the time the Atlanta Hawks were facing a public facing racial crisis, and so I was a part of Edelman’s organization to spirit in diversity and inclusion there, and I got a phone call from Austin and Berg who happened to be one of Edelman’s largest clients at the time and they said “Do you have time to come to our office? We’d like you to meet with someone who we think is a potential crisis client for you. And so I ended up meeting with Steve Koonin who’s the CEO of the Hawks and Scott Wilkinson the general counsel.  I’d like to call this story turning a tragedy into a triumph, because at the time they were facing really the toughest thing that they’ve ever faced in franchise history.

They became aware that their controlling owner and their general manager had both been involved in trading emails regarding the African-American fan base, disparaging fans, et cetera, and It all culminated in a board call in which the general manager at the time had said some disparaging things about a potential recruit to the team who was of African descent, and so the question for me was, “Can you help us? We think this is going to become public, we have to restore our reputation in this city. We are in the city too busy to hate; this is the hope of Dr. King and just don’t know what to do.” And so I joined Steven and Scott in the executive committee as a crisis counselor to help them out this, awful travesty, and so while I was doing the work I began to realize and recognize that diversity and inclusion could really be leveraged as part of their business moving forward and really managed in a sustainable way, If executed properly, and so one of my suggestions to the CEO was that he implemented a CDIO goal. I was not thinking about myself at the time but I just recognized that this was low hanging fruit and there was really an opportunity to create something for the NBA.

The NBA had just been through this with Donald Sterling and the LA Clippers two months prior to the Hawks going through it so I wondered, “is this a trend in the NBA? What can we do to fix it?” And so when I made that recommendation they ended up coming back and said “We’re going to hire a CDIO” and then after some long prayer sessions, ans talking with some mentors and really thinking about what the opportunity was, I told Steve, “I’m gonna raise my hand and apply of for that job”, and he said, “Well why would you leave your stable position, you’re doing well, you helping us in the middle of a crisis, why would you do that?”, and I said, “Because there’s nothing but upside, we’re at the lowest point that we can possibly be, and everything from here will be a win, and I want to be a part of that winning team” So that was my reason for joining the team and starting, getting involved in this work at the NBA league level.

Small Business Trends: That’s great. The NBA is really interesting because, first of all, its numbers are going through the roof. But it’s also a league that has been, I think at the forefront of minority ownership. You had Bob Johnson, of course you had Michael Jordan, we have you, but they’ve also been at the forefront of having under representative minorities, blacks, go into coaching, head coaching positions, general manager positions. So it seems like the league is really good at leading social change. When it comes to diversity and inclusiveness what can other leagues, and maybe even outside of sports, other industries learn from what’s going on in the NBA?

Grant Hill: Well you know I do agree I think as a professional sports league, and I’m not, let me qualify this answer by saying I’m not a huge follower of other sports, I’m all in with the NBA, but at least from my vantage point we are very progressive and you know it starts with our leadership, starts with former commissioner David Stern, current commissioner Adam Silver, if you look in the league offices I think really reflects diversity, you know our deputy commissioner is a man of color, Kathleen Behrens is one of the top league executives there and has a tremendous role and responsibility. So I feel that it starts at the top and you know much like I feel our organization in Atlanta, we strive to reflect on what Atlanta as we know is very diverse and I think that the league does that as well, we have a very diverse customer base, diversity in term of players; we have 25 percent of players at opening night this year were born outside of the continental US.

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So that speaks a little bit to the game becoming a global brand but you know I think the game of basketball in general, kind of speaks diversity to me. When I was younger you’d go to the park to play basketball and there might be two teams of five playing, and 20 people on the sidelines waiting to play, and as a captain, who might have the next game, to play the winner, you’re gonna pick the best four players to play with you, so you can win. The object is to win, the object is to be successful, and I don’t care if your black, white, brown, gay, straight, if they can help you win; I feel like that spirit sort of exists in our sport.

It’s one of the closest things to a meritocracy, in that you know, it’s about talent, and I really do believe that. I can’t speak to the past, I can only speak now to the present, but I do feel that our leadership gets that, and understands that, and that’s sorta of the idea of our sport, of winning, the competing, and being successful. So as a league, as a franchise, we want to be successful, we want to be the best Atlanta Hawks organization that we can be. It’s like saying okay with the Hawks we’re only going to hire people who live within 2 miles of the arena downtown. I mean that would be foolish, you want to hire the best, I don’t care where they’re from, and so I think that is our mindset. I’m proud, not that we don’t have room for improvement but I do feel like we with the leadership of Zing, and Tony Ressler, and Steve Koonin, and collectively, we’re leading the way, not just in the NBA but in professional sports and that’s something that I’m very, very, extremely, proud of, especially considering what had happened two years ago, prior to Nzinga’s arrival.

Nzinga Shaw: I also think that, we have pulled this function out of HR were diversity traditionally lies, and have done something very unique with is to make it report into the C suite, reporting directly to the CEO, and I think when business functions report into the CEO and have, the responsibility of interacting across the board in the organization, and really helping to drive revenue, and helping to drive marking decisions, and things beyond administrative tasks, that’s when the organization really takes the work seriously and that’s when people in the organization start to realize that, this is something that’s real this is something that’s championed from the very top as Grant just said, and then also I just remembered when Grant became part of the ownership team.

Grant Hill: And I would just add, piggybacking on that, I do think Adam Silver really wants former players involved, and obviously a majority of players in the NBA are of color, but just to have that perspective on the emotional level. There’s a certain perspective, whether it’s the rules committee, competition committee, all that sort of that role encompasses as an owner, to bring that perspective and understanding, he’s been really bullish on that, with the amount of money that a lot of these guys are currently making, and guys like Lebron James is talking about wanting to own a team at some point.

I think you’ll see more and more, people of color, in ownership positions whether as a majority partner or vice chairman or minority, whatever role that might be, and you don’t see that in other sports, you don’t see that in football, you know there’s very few, I don’t want to say there’s none. So I think that’s important, it’s got to start at the top of the league, it’s got to start at the top of an organization as you said, for it to be credible within, and you know Nzing is involved in all aspects of our business and every new part of it, and she holds us all, holds me, accountable.

Small Business Trends: That brings up the perfect question around impact. How does these initiatives, how does inclusiveness, how does equality, how does that impact the Hawks’ business.

Nzinga Shaw: You know I think it impacts our business in many ways, and I’ll just give you an example, I mean we think about inclusion from variety in perspectives. I think nine times out of ten, when we’re having a conversation about diversity and inclusion people think we’re talking about race, sometimes gender, and now starting to talk about sexual orientation, but we’re talking about a lot of different things. We’re talking about families that may have some sort of sensory need, like autism or PTSD, and figuring out ways to include them into our arena experience. We just opened up a re imagined arena, State Farm Arena, as you all know, the renovation was just finished, and so part of that is to include a sensory inclusion room, a room for families that have this need right? So that if your child happens to have autism and maybe your other children don’t, you can still come to the game and have a great experience and be in the building, and so when you think about how that impacts business, well that now opens up doors for people that have traditionally stayed away from sports.

We think about the LGBTQ community which is really low hanging fruit in the Atlanta community, we are now the third largest city for people that are openly out to reside here. We have the third largest Pride in the nation. We’re the only sports organization in Atlanta to march in Pride, and we’ve been doing it for four consecutive years and will continue and will build upon that because the LQBTQ community has said to us “We need to know that there’s a sports team that embraces us, and we will be loyal fans, and we will bring business, and we will engage in the ways that you want us to but we just need to know that there are allies out there.” and so I think really thinking outside of the box in terms of inclusion and how you curate experiences for new and emerging communities and how you make whatever happens in our building very real for these different types of communities that’s how long term business is created, we don’t do it for the business we really do it for the culture to make sure that the Atlanta Hawks brand is something that resonates whether we’re on the winning streak or the losing streak. It’s got to go beyond wins and losses on the court. It’s got to be a brand that resonates with people so that they decide to spend an evening with us, knowing that we may not be the victors that night.

Photo via Michael W. Thomas/MWT Photography

This article, “Grant Hill and Nzinga Shaw of the Atlanta Hawks: Inclusion and Diversity are Good for Business and Must Start at the Top of the Organization” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Grant Hill and Nzinga Hall of the Atlanta Hawks: Inclusion and Diversity are Good for Business and Must Start at the Top of the Organization

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Atlanta Hawks Grant Hill, Nzinga Hall: Inclusion, Diversity is good Business

If you’re a longtime sports fan like me, you’ve probably heard of Grant Hill.  He was the guy who threw “the pass” to Christian Laettner that led to him hitting “the shot” that beat Kentucky in the Eastern Regional Final in 1992 that put Duke into the Final Four, which they eventually ended up winning.  From there, Hill went on to the NBA where he played for 19 years, and earlier this year he was voted in to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

While many of you probably knew that, you might not have known that he went from playing on the court to being a co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks — also serving as Vice Chair of the organization. And last week I had the honor of hosting a conversation with Hill and Nzinga Shaw, the Hawks Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, during the Diversity in Tech Summit held in conjunction with Salesforce’s World Tour Stop in Atlanta.  The event was organized in partnership with The Atlanta Tribune: the Magazine.

Shaw, who is the first person to hold such a position in a professional team sport in the US, and Hill discussed a number of interesting issues around leadership, the benefits of inclusion and equality, and why diversity has to be part of the corporate culture in order for it work.  Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. To see the full conversation, watch the video below or click on the embedded SoundCloud player.

Small Business Trends: Okay, so, let me start with you Grant, because we just went through, I believe we went through about 27 years just encapsulated, but when you were at Duke with the high top fade getting ready to throw that pass, did you ever imagine or dream that you would actually be an owner in the NBA at that point?

Grant Hill: No. I think back then though, I mean, I had no idea. I wasn’t even sure that the NBA was a possibility and I was sort of in the moment, had a great time at Duke. It was a great experience playing for Coach K. and my teammates and going for, pursuing championships at that time, but it was a lot different back then than it is now.

The NBA wasn’t as accessible and it was just a different time. College basketball was really big and so being an NBA athlete wasn’t necessarily on my radar and definitely the idea or the concept of being an owner of an NBA franchise was not on my radar. Now, in saying that, my father directly, or indirectly, planted the seed. My dad played in the NFL, played back in the 70s and 80s, has worked in professional sports really since the early 80s with the Browns, Cleveland Browns, with the Baltimore Orioles, and for the last 20 plus years, with the Dallas Cowboys. And he tried unsuccessfully during the early nineties and even late eighties to try and put together a group and buy a sports franchise, tried looking to win the Patriots in the ’80s, the Bullets in basketball in the early ’90s and then the Cleveland Browns when they left and then the NFL awarded them a franchise.

So, I had that experience of sort of living through him having planted the seed of possibility at a very young age, but in ’92, with the high top fade and all, I was not thinking about … All I was thinking about completing the pass and making sure I stayed eligible for the next semester.

Small Business Trends: Nzinga we just talked about you taking this position, the first of its kind in professional sports [CDIO – Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer]. When you were brought that opportunity, what were your first impressions, what did you want to do with it?

Nzinga Shaw: Well it was a very unique situation Brent, because at the time the Atlanta Hawks were facing a public facing racial crisis, and so I was a part of Edelman’s organization to spirit in diversity and inclusion there, and I got a phone call from Austin and Berg who happened to be one of Edelman’s largest clients at the time and they said “Do you have time to come to our office? We’d like you to meet with someone who we think is a potential crisis client for you. And so I ended up meeting with Steve Koonin who’s the CEO of the Hawks and Scott Wilkinson the general counsel.  I’d like to call this story turning a tragedy into a triumph, because at the time they were facing really the toughest thing that they’ve ever faced in franchise history.

They became aware that their controlling owner and their general manager had both been involved in trading emails regarding the African-American fan base, disparaging fans, et cetera, and It all culminated in a board call in which the general manager at the time had said some disparaging things about a potential recruit to the team who was of African descent, and so the question for me was, “Can you help us? We think this is going to become public, we have to restore our reputation in this city. We are in the city too busy to hate; this is the hope of Dr. King and just don’t know what to do.” And so I joined Steven and Scott in the executive committee as a crisis counselor to help them out this, awful travesty, and so while I was doing the work I began to realize and recognize that diversity and inclusion could really be leveraged as part of their business moving forward and really managed in a sustainable way, If executed properly, and so one of my suggestions to the CEO was that he implemented a CDIO goal. I was not thinking about myself at the time but I just recognized that this was low hanging fruit and there was really an opportunity to create something for the NBA.

The NBA had just been through this with Donald Sterling and the LA Clippers two months prior to the Hawks going through it so I wondered, “is this a trend in the NBA? What can we do to fix it?” And so when I made that recommendation they ended up coming back and said “We’re going to hire a CDIO” and then after some long prayer sessions, ans talking with some mentors and really thinking about what the opportunity was, I told Steve, “I’m gonna raise my hand and apply of for that job”, and he said, “Well why would you leave your stable position, you’re doing well, you helping us in the middle of a crisis, why would you do that?”, and I said, “Because there’s nothing but upside, we’re at the lowest point that we can possibly be, and everything from here will be a win, and I want to be a part of that winning team” So that was my reason for joining the team and starting, getting involved in this work at the NBA league level.

Small Business Trends: That’s great. The NBA is really interesting because, first of all, its numbers are going through the roof. But it’s also a league that has been, I think at the forefront of minority ownership. You had Bob Johnson, of course you had Michael Jordan, we have you, but they’ve also been at the forefront of having under representative minorities, blacks, go into coaching, head coaching positions, general manager positions. So it seems like the league is really good at leading social change. When it comes to diversity and inclusiveness what can other leagues, and maybe even outside of sports, other industries learn from what’s going on in the NBA?

Grant Hill: Well you know I do agree I think as a professional sports league, and I’m not, let me qualify this answer by saying I’m not a huge follower of other sports, I’m all in with the NBA, but at least from my vantage point we are very progressive and you know it starts with our leadership, starts with former commissioner David Stern, current commissioner Adam Silver, if you look in the league offices I think really reflects diversity, you know our deputy commissioner is a man of color, Kathleen Behrens is one of the top league executives there and has a tremendous role and responsibility. So I feel that it starts at the top and you know much like I feel our organization in Atlanta, we strive to reflect on what Atlanta as we know is very diverse and I think that the league does that as well, we have a very diverse customer base, diversity in term of players; we have 25 percent of players at opening night this year were born outside of the continental US.

?

So that speaks a little bit to the game becoming a global brand but you know I think the game of basketball in general, kind of speaks diversity to me. When I was younger you’d go to the park to play basketball and there might be two teams of five playing, and 20 people on the sidelines waiting to play, and as a captain, who might have the next game, to play the winner, you’re gonna pick the best four players to play with you, so you can win. The object is to win, the object is to be successful, and I don’t care if your black, white, brown, gay, straight, if they can help you win; I feel like that spirit sort of exists in our sport.

It’s one of the closest things to a meritocracy, in that you know, it’s about talent, and I really do believe that. I can’t speak to the past, I can only speak now to the present, but I do feel that our leadership gets that, and understands that, and that’s sorta of the idea of our sport, of winning, the competing, and being successful. So as a league, as a franchise, we want to be successful, we want to be the best Atlanta Hawks organization that we can be. It’s like saying okay with the Hawks we’re only going to hire people who live within 2 miles of the arena downtown. I mean that would be foolish, you want to hire the best, I don’t care where they’re from, and so I think that is our mindset. I’m proud, not that we don’t have room for improvement but I do feel like we with the leadership of Zing, and Tony Ressler, and Steve Koonin, and collectively, we’re leading the way, not just in the NBA but in professional sports and that’s something that I’m very, very, extremely, proud of, especially considering what had happened two years ago, prior to Nzinga’s arrival.

Nzinga Shaw: I also think that, we have pulled this function out of HR were diversity traditionally lies, and have done something very unique with is to make it report into the C suite, reporting directly to the CEO, and I think when business functions report into the CEO and have, the responsibility of interacting across the board in the organization, and really helping to drive revenue, and helping to drive marking decisions, and things beyond administrative tasks, that’s when the organization really takes the work seriously and that’s when people in the organization start to realize that, this is something that’s real this is something that’s championed from the very top as Grant just said, and then also I just remembered when Grant became part of the ownership team.

Grant Hill: And I would just add, piggybacking on that, I do think Adam Silver really wants former players involved, and obviously a majority of players in the NBA are of color, but just to have that perspective on the emotional level. There’s a certain perspective, whether it’s the rules committee, competition committee, all that sort of that role encompasses as an owner, to bring that perspective and understanding, he’s been really bullish on that, with the amount of money that a lot of these guys are currently making, and guys like Lebron James is talking about wanting to own a team at some point.

I think you’ll see more and more, people of color, in ownership positions whether as a majority partner or vice chairman or minority, whatever role that might be, and you don’t see that in other sports, you don’t see that in football, you know there’s very few, I don’t want to say there’s none. So I think that’s important, it’s got to start at the top of the league, it’s got to start at the top of an organization as you said, for it to be credible within, and you know Nzing is involved in all aspects of our business and every new part of it, and she holds us all, holds me, accountable.

Small Business Trends: That brings up the perfect question around impact. How does these initiatives, how does inclusiveness, how does equality, how does that impact the Hawks’ business.

Nzinga Shaw: You know I think it impacts our business in many ways, and I’ll just give you an example, I mean we think about inclusion from variety in perspectives. I think nine times out of ten, when we’re having a conversation about diversity and inclusion people think we’re talking about race, sometimes gender, and now starting to talk about sexual orientation, but we’re talking about a lot of different things. We’re talking about families that may have some sort of sensory need, like autism or PTSD, and figuring out ways to include them into our arena experience. We just opened up a re imagined arena, State Farm Arena, as you all know, the renovation was just finished, and so part of that is to include a sensory inclusion room, a room for families that have this need right? So that if your child happens to have autism and maybe your other children don’t, you can still come to the game and have a great experience and be in the building, and so when you think about how that impacts business, well that now opens up doors for people that have traditionally stayed away from sports.

We think about the LGBTQ community which is really low hanging fruit in the Atlanta community, we are now the third largest city for people that are openly out to reside here. We have the third largest Pride in the nation. We’re the only sports organization in Atlanta to march in Pride, and we’ve been doing it for four consecutive years and will continue and will build upon that because the LQBTQ community has said to us “We need to know that there’s a sports team that embraces us, and we will be loyal fans, and we will bring business, and we will engage in the ways that you want us to but we just need to know that there are allies out there.” and so I think really thinking outside of the box in terms of inclusion and how you curate experiences for new and emerging communities and how you make whatever happens in our building very real for these different types of communities that’s how long term business is created, we don’t do it for the business we really do it for the culture to make sure that the Atlanta Hawks brand is something that resonates whether we’re on the winning streak or the losing streak. It’s got to go beyond wins and losses on the court. It’s got to be a brand that resonates with people so that they decide to spend an evening with us, knowing that we may not be the victors that night.

Photo via Michael W. Thomas/MWT Photography

This article, “Grant Hill and Nzinga Hall of the Atlanta Hawks: Inclusion and Diversity are Good for Business and Must Start at the Top of the Organization” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Trade Wars and Immigration Dampening the Business Mood

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Are small businesses beginning to have feelings other than optimism as we near the end of 2018?

Headlines this week suggest that the ebullient air among small business owners like yourself is being overcome by worry. Maybe it’s just the holidays?

Or maybe it’s just the flu?

This week, we learned that retailers across the country are already dealing with or preparing for an escalation in the trade dispute with China. As relations between Washington and Beijing continue to teeter back and forth, retailers here are reacting by cutting back on orders from the country.

At the same time, a new report from National Write Your Congressman (NWYC) finds that the top concern right now among small business owners is immigration to the U.S. This is a relatively new concern (or at least a recent one) for small business owners. It’s the first time in the history of NWYC’s index that immigration has ranked among the top 5 issues concerning small business in America.

It’s the end of the week and almost the end of the year. Try not to worry. Think about that holiday party you’ve got planned. Remember, though, if you’re hosting, don’t let it get out of control.

Also, check out what else made headlines this week for small businesses in our weekly news and information roundup below:

Management

Office Fantasy Sports Leagues Good for Company Culture, New Survey Reveals

Businesses are always looking for ways to cultivate the culture of their company with the goal of improving the overall performance of the organization. A new survey from Kimble Applications looks at how fantasy sports leagues can have a positive impact in that endeavor. In the survey, more than half or 54% said sport related activities have a positive effect on company culture.

Marketing Tips

BrandintheBox Offers Small Business Owners Brand Building for a Monthly Subscription

A new subscription-based tool can help you define and build your brand through a series of dynamic strategies designed to corral in the intangibles so you clients get a full experience. BrandintheBox also supplies a series of guides and actionable tools that spring from the tried and tested cornerstones of brand-building.

Retail Trends

Free Shipping, Smooth Shopping Experience Led to Spikes in Spending Cyber Monday

The power of discounts was on display yet again this year during the holiday shopping weekend as more people scrambled to snag online shopping deals for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

Small Business Operations

32% of Your Millennial Employees Work in the Bathroom – and it’s NOT a Good Thing

That is a sign your employees are working too hard? And while this might sound like a nice problem for a small business owner to have, a new study shows that millennials tend to be workaholics — a tendency that can be bad both for them and for your business.

Technology Trends

Zoho Inventory Goes Mobile with Benefits for Small Businesses

A little over three years after its launch, Zoho Inventory becomes available on your mobile device with an all-new Android App. The 28th product release under the Zoho umbrella, Zoho Inventory was launched in 2015 and is a boon for small businesses.

The New Dell Vostro 5000 Addresses the Needs of Small Businesses

When it comes to computing, small businesses have a wide range of needs. The new Dell Vostro 5000 line of laptops have been designed to address these many different needs while taking into consideration the budget of said small businesses.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Trade Wars and Immigration Dampening the Business Mood” was first published on Small Business Trends

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IRS Standard Mileage Rates for 2019 See Increase and a Major Change

Friday, December 14th, 2018

IRS Standard Mileage Rates for 2019

The standard mileage rates for 2019 have just been released by the IRS and small businesses will see both a jump in the mileage standard for business travel and another big change thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Mileage Rates From The IRS for 2019

The IRS mileage rates for 2019 for using a vehicle for business purposes are:

  • 58 cents per mile for each business mile, up 3.5 cents from 54.5 cents for 2018;
  • 20 cents per mile to cover moving or medical purposes, up 2 cents from 18 cents for 2018;
  • 14 cents per mile driven for charitable organizations. This rate is set by statute and doesn’t vary.

The IRS mileage rates for 2019 apply to miles driven starting January 1, 2019. These standard mileage rates are important because they provide small businesses with a framework for calculating deductible costs for operating a vehicle for business purposes.

Tax and Jobs Cuts Act

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has also had a major impact on where the standard mileage deduction rate can be used.  Under the new law, no claim is possible for a miscellaneous itemized deduction on employee travel expenses that are unreimbursed. There is also no deduction for employee moving  expenses with the exception of Armed Forces members on active duty to a  permanent change of station under orders.

The IRS explains, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also suspends all miscellaneous itemized deductions that are subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income floor. This change affects un-reimbursed employee expenses such as uniforms, union dues and the deduction for business-related meals, entertainment and travel”

The IRS sets these rates every year for small businesses including medical and moving expenses after looking at the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle for business. The numbers are calculated based on averages of what it costs to drive a vehicle for business. The factors include  maintenance, repair and the amount of gas used. It’s important to remember the variable rate only applies for moving and medical expenses.

Actual Costs Versus Standard Mileage Rate

The standard mileage rate from the IRS isn’t the only way to calculate the deductions you can have for business vehicle use. Other methods include calculating the actual costs for operating a vehicle for business. However, the IRS is clear adequate records need to be kept. Using your actual expenses is usually more paperwork for people who use their vehicle for business and small business owners.

The standard mileage rate can also be used to reimburse employees for the miles they drive using their personal vehicle for business. Many businesses add memos or additions to employee handbooks outlining the rate and method of reimbursement. To calculate the reimbursement, small business owners need employees to document the miles they drive for business and then multiply that number by the reimbursement rate.

Small businesses should also keep in mind there are some situations where you cannot use the standard mileage rate and these include:

  • If the vehicle is a taxicab or some other type of car for hire
  • In fleet situations where there are five or more vehicles being used at the same time.
  • If the vehicle is being used to deliver mail in rural areas and gets qualified reimbursement under Publication 463 Chapter 4.
  • If you claim depreciation or a deduction under section 179.

Here’s a link to the actual announcement from the IRS. There’s also some information about the amounts a taxpayer needs to use to calculate deductions concerning depreciation. Finally, there are details about the maximum standard automobile cost a taxpayer may use under fixed and the variable rate (FAVR) plan.

Here’s a good tip if you haven’t started using any of these methods. It’s a good idea to keep track of the costs in the first year you use any vehicle for business purposes. That way, you’ll have a baseline to determine if that deduction is larger than using the standard mileage rate.

Related Resources:

IRS mileage rate for 2018 (for miles driven in 2018)

Image: IRS

This article, “IRS Standard Mileage Rates for 2019 See Increase and a Major Change” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Trade War With China Hits Small Amazon Sellers

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Trade War Impact on Amazon Sellers

The trade war between The US and China is affecting Amazon sellers. It’s even gotten to the point where finding suppliers outside of China and manufacturing outside that country are being suggested as possible solutions by Jungle Scout, a small company dedicated to helping entrepreneurs run their Amazon businesses.

Trade War Impact on Amazon Sellers

Small Business Trends got a first-hand account of the small business’ issues involved from Shane Stinemetz, Vice President of Operations at Jungle Scout. Stinemetz is also a Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) seller.

He started with the backstory around his business.

“I’ve been selling on Amazon for 3.5 years with the sole intention of building up a healthy, automated business that only requires a few hours of management per week,” he wrote in an email. “My business generates ~$90k net profit per year.”

Import Duties Begin to Rise

Stinemetz went on to say that he has 6 unique private label trademarked products that are brand registered with Amazon. These products are manufactured at several different factories across China. He said he noticed the changes around September 2018.

“I knew all the sections below my business wasn’t truly affected until I placed my first reorder following the sanctions,” he writes. This past September the administration placed a 10% duty on $200 billion in imports from China. Those numbers are scheduled to rise to 25% at the beginning of 2019.

Costs Increase in Unexpected Ways

The fallout from the tariffs, beyond the cost increases, had other unpredicted consequences. For example, Stinemetz was mandated by law to give his Chinese freight forwarding company power of attorney so his goods could pass through customs.

There was also more paperwork, the need to establish new contracts, and more government requests for LLC and tax ID information.

Freight Forwarding and Product Costs See Big Bumps

“In short, freight forwarding costs have increased substantially. This is the largest impact to my business so far. I ship products in bulk by sea and I’ve noticed that customs costs have more than doubled,” he writes.

What’s more, even though his products are not on the sanctioned list, there’s been a bump in product cost because steel prices have gone up for his suppliers.

Sellers Seek Other Sources Outside China

Even with the uncertainty surrounding this type of global business, Stinemetz remains proactive.

“I’m a little nervous about my lower margin products,” he writes “I know my competitors are dealing with the same challenges so I expect that we’ll all start raising our prices over time (ie: pass the cost over to the Amazon shopper). I will definitely consider manufacturing outside China.”

He’s also positive about his opportunities with Amazon going forward.

Third Party Sellers Will Watch Closely

“Third party sellers will have to monitor the trade-war closely and depending on the products they sell they may have to look outside China to produce the goods that shoppers want,” he writes.

“Proactive business policies incentivizing global trade is what lifted China from the ashes over the past 2 decades and catapulted its economy to the 2nd largest in the world. If the trade war holds up, inevitably, other foreign governments will jump at the opportunity to incentive global trade with Amazon 3rd party sellers.”

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Trade War With China Hits Small Amazon Sellers” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The Risk of Class Action Suits in Business is No Fairy Tale

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Class action lawsuits aren’t uncommon in business. And the idea of characters who’ve been harmed by wolves is a fairly straightforward gag. Now, what I want to point out in this cartoon is something really simple — the shingles on the roof.

I’ve been a cartoonist for more than 20 years, and goodness knows I’ve drawn my share of homes and buildings, but every so often you find some new little detail that you hadn’t before.

Normally I’d just draw the roof with a few lines and leave it at that. If it were another angle I might imply shingles with a few lines, but from this view you don’t really see them.

But on this cartoon, for reasons I can’t totally explain, it occurred to me to add three little curved lines on top. It’s simple, it’s almost not noticeable, but I think it adds a lot to the cartoon in a subtle way.

Anyway, I think it illustrates that even when you’ve been doing something for a very long time and you feel like you know what you’re doing, there’s still room for little discoveries if you allow for them.

This article, “The Risk of Class Action Suits in Business is No Fairy Tale” was first published on Small Business Trends

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