Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Sole Proprietors’ Interest Expenditures in Long Term Decline

Monday, March 30th, 2015

033015 sole proprietor

Small business owners are paying a lot less to borrow money now than they did three decades ago.

That’s based on analysis of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data. Per the IRS, the average sole proprietor paid four times as much on interest expense in 1983 as in 2011, when the numbers are measured in inflation-adjusted terms.

Although some of this decline in the amount of interest payments results from a reduction in the size of the average sole proprietorship, spending on interest has also declined as a fraction of sole proprietors’ sales. As the figure below shows, interest expense at sole proprietorships decreased from 2.1 percent of revenues in 1983 to 1.0 percent in 2011, the most recent year data are available.

However, most of this reduction occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2001, interest expense as a percentage of sales has remained roughly constant.

The decline in interest expense has a few different causes:

  • The first is the fall in interest rates. The Federal Reserve reports that the prime interest rate dropped from 10.8 percent in 1983 to 3.25 percent in 2014.
  • The second is the reduction in the fraction of small businesses borrowing. According to the National Federation of Independent Business’s monthly survey of its members, 38 percent of small businesses borrowed at least once a quarter back in 1986. In 2014, that fraction was down to 31 percent.
  • The third is the decline in average loan size. While data on the dollar value of commercial and industrial loans is not available before the late 1990s, Federal Reserve data reveal that the average commercial and industrial bank loan in 2014 was 43 percent smaller than the average loan in 1997.

One factor that doesn’t seem to be responsible is a shift of small businesses to greater reliance on equity financing. Sole proprietors’ interest expenditures have fallen, even though liabilities as a percentage of proprietors’ equity increased from 30.7 percent in 1980 to 68.8 percent in 2013, Federal Reserve data reveals.

Source: Created from data from the Internal Revenue Service

Source: Created from data from the Internal Revenue Service

Flower Shop Owner Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Sole Proprietors’ Interest Expenditures in Long Term Decline” was first published on Small Business Trends

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4 Movies to Inspire Entrepreneurs

Monday, March 30th, 2015

movies to inspire entrepreneurs
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It is a long journey that is full of challenges and problems. In order to overcome these problems, you need to think outside of the box, improve yourself constantly and learn from your mistakes. However, you can also learn from other people’s mistakes and movies are a great way to do this. Therefore, as an entrepreneur, whenever you need a break or some motivation, watch the below movies and inspire yourself.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is a great movie which shows that everyone in life can be successful, if they make the right decisions at the right time. You don’t need to be a genius to achieve something in life. Just believe in yourself and use the opportunities presented to you wisely. Know what you are good at, what you like and do not limit yourself. Define your own destiny for yourself. Do not let others define your destiny for you.

Social Network

No one says it is easy to turn a dream into a reality with billion of users but it is doable. The important point is to take action and execute your idea into something which others can use and brings value to them. Don’t forget that everybody can think the same idea but not everybody can turn it into a product. Therefore, the idea itself is not enough to start a business. You need a minimum viable product. Also, another important lesson is not to betray your friends no matter what. Friendships are priceless!

Startup.com

Don’t wait for your product to be perfect to release it. Make the minimum viable product and change it along the way listening to your customers. Otherwise, competitors can make similar products and beat you at the market. Start from the most needed features and then, add other features if your customers request it. Use the lean startup methodology. Also, always use your money wisely. Learn how to manage a budget properly.

Chef

You can turn your life around, if you follow your true passion. Don’t let failure demotivate you. Always chase your dreams. Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media and use social media channels whenever you can to market your business. Another important lesson we can learn from this movie is to choose your business partner wisely. S/he should be someone that you can trust and that can help you out in your challenging days. Moreover, you need to share the same vision as a team if you want to become successful.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Movies to Inspire Entrepreneurs photo via Shutterstock

This article, “4 Movies to Inspire Entrepreneurs” was first published on Small Business Trends

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A Failure of Leadership: What Business Owners Can Learn

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Hillary ClintonEDIT
Once again the government is there to teach us a valuable leadership lesson. And this has nothing to do with politics or party affiliation. It’s not about Democrat or Republican, nor about whether you like or dislike the current administration. It’s about setting and following through with clear expectations and consequences.

The Story:

Hillary Clinton sets up her own server in her home and uses it for all of her email communications, both personal and business, while she is Secretary of State. At the same time, government employees are told to conduct all government business through .gov email addresses.

“Leaders” in government, including Mrs. Clinton tell their employees to only use their .gov emails for government business. All government employees sign form OF-109 confirming that they have returned all unclassified documents to a responsible official upon their resignation or retirement from government service.

However, whether she signed the document or not, it is unclear if Mrs. Clinton ensured her documents made it to a responsible government official when she left the Secretary of State’s office. And she isn’t saying whether she did. Dan Metcalfe explains this situation in a Politico article. While it’s a little too snarky for my taste it does lay out the case from the viewpoint of someone who would know.

Where was the oversight? Where was the commitment to policy? To expectations? And what were the consequences of following or not following policy?

The Business Case:

This type of situation is played out on a daily basis in businesses around the world. There are employees making their own decisions about how they are going to conduct themselves and which rules they are going to follow. And there isn’t anyone holding them accountable. This doesn’t only impact that employee. It impacts the entire company and its ability to succeed.

1. The leadership is in less control and in many cases is unaware of the impact the actions of these employees is having on their bottom line.

2. Other employees are watching and making their own decisions based on what they see. They are also developing a perception of the company leadership — one that usually isn’t very good.

3. Good employees leave because they see the negative effect of these situations and don’t want to be collateral damage.

4. In many cases, the company’s finances are negatively impacted as well.

The Solution:

In order for an organization to run smoothly and properly address the challenges it encounters, the leadership has to be in control. That means they have to not only create expectations with consequences, but they have to communicate them consistently, and most importantly, follow through with them.

People need to know that there really are consequences to their actions — both good and bad. It’s up to the leadership to follow through with those consequences so everyone knows they are real.

This is how they build respect and how they ensure people will follow them. It’s how they move forward effectively. The cleanup that happens when someone doesn’t follow the policies and guidelines in an organization takes everyone’s energy away from the goal.

Isn’t the point of leadership to get people to follow you to the goals you seek? Employees need to know you mean it — all the time. Otherwise you are telling them you don’t mean it at all. And that is a failure of leadership.

Hillary Clinton photo via Shutterstock

This article, “A Failure of Leadership: What Business Owners Can Learn” was first published on Small Business Trends

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A Failure of Leadership: What Your Business Can Learn

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Hillary ClintonEDIT
Once again the government is there to teach us a valuable leadership lesson. And this has nothing to do with politics or party affiliation. It’s not about Democrat or Republican, nor about whether you like or dislike the current administration. It’s about setting and following through with clear expectations and consequences.

The Story:

Hillary Clinton sets up her own server in her home and uses it for all of her email communications, both personal and business, while she is Secretary of State. At the same time, government employees are told to conduct all government business through .gov email addresses.

“Leaders” in government, including Mrs. Clinton tell their employees to only use their .gov emails for government business. All government employees sign form OF-109 confirming that they have returned all unclassified documents to a responsible official upon their resignation or retirement from government service.

However, whether she signed the document or not, it is unclear if Mrs. Clinton ensured her documents made it to a responsible government official when she left the Secretary of State’s office. And she isn’t saying whether she did. Dan Metcalfe explains this situation in a Politico article. While it’s a little too snarky for my taste it does lay out the case from the viewpoint of someone who would know.

Where was the oversight? Where was the commitment to policy? To expectations? And what were the consequences of following or not following policy?

The Business Case:

This type of situation is played out on a daily basis in businesses around the world. There are employees making their own decisions about how they are going to conduct themselves and which rules they are going to follow. And there isn’t anyone holding them accountable. This doesn’t only impact that employee. It impacts the entire company and its ability to succeed.

1. The leadership is in less control and in many cases is unaware of the impact the actions of these employees is having on their bottom line.

2. Other employees are watching and making their own decisions based on what they see. They are also developing a perception of the company leadership — one that usually isn’t very good.

3. Good employees leave because they see the negative effect of these situations and don’t want to be collateral damage.

4. In many cases, the company’s finances are negatively impacted as well.

The Solution:

In order for an organization to run smoothly and properly address the challenges it encounters, the leadership has to be in control. That means they have to not only create expectations with consequences, but they have to communicate them consistently, and most importantly, follow through with them.

People need to know that there really are consequences to their actions — both good and bad. It’s up to the leadership to follow through with those consequences so everyone knows they are real.

This is how they build respect and how they ensure people will follow them. It’s how they move forward effectively. The cleanup that happens when someone doesn’t follow the policies and guidelines in an organization takes everyone’s energy away from the goal. Isn’t the point of leadership to get people to follow you to the goals you seek? Employees need to know you mean it — all the time. Otherwise you are telling them you don’t mean it at all. And that is a failure of leadership.

Hillary Clinton photo via Shutterstock

This article, “A Failure of Leadership: What Your Business Can Learn” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Are Women Entrepreneurs Putting Their Personal Credit at Risk?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

033015 businesswoman

As small business owners, we all want our businesses to survive and thrive. Sometimes, that means making personal sacrifices. But a new study by Experian reveals that women business owners may be making too many sacrifices when it comes to their personal finances — and it’s putting their personal credit ratings at risk.

The study of both male and female business owners examined both business and personal credit data, then analyzed the differences between the credit profiles of the men and women entrepreneurs. Here’s what they found:

  • Women business owners have lower incomes than male entrepreneurs. Just 17.4 percent have a personal income of $125,000 or more, compared to 21.2 percent of men.
  • Women business owners have an average business credit score of 34 (out of 100, with 100 being the least risk); men business owners average 35.
  • Women business owners’ consumer credit scores average 689; male business owners’ consumer credit scores average 699.

What’s behind the discrepancy? Women entrepreneurs in this study were most likely to own and operate businesses in these six industries:

  • Business Services
  • Beauty Shops
  • Retail Stores
  • Personal Services
  • Building Maintenance
  • Restaurants

Men were most likely to own and operate businesses in these six industries:

  • General Contracting
  • Business Services
  • Real Estate
  • Restaurants
  • Motion Picture Distribution
  • Retail Stores

Although there is a lot of overlap here, general contracting and real estate businesses may be more likely to generate larger sales than the typical businesses run by women. Women-owned businesses typically generate lower revenues: Only 14.5 percent have sales of more than $500,000, while 24 percent of men-owned businesses do.

In addition, women-owned businesses pay their bills 8.4 days past due, while male-owned businesses pay theirs an average of 8.1 days past due.

Women’s more limited access to commercial credit is reflected in the study. Just 18.5 percent of women-owned businesses have one or more open commercial trade accounts, while 22 percent of men-owned businesses do.

As a result, women are more likely to turn to their personal credit to finance business operation and growth. Over 25 percent of women entrepreneurs have 10 to 19 tradelines open on their personal credit files; just 17.5 percent of male business owners do.

Women are also more likely than men to have delinquent personal credit accounts. In the last 24 months, women entrepreneurs had an average of 1.3 personal credit accounts become 90 or more days past due, compared to an average of 0.9 for male entrepreneurs.

What gives? When women business owners can’t get access to capital and credit they need through commercial channels, they’re forced to turn to their personal credit to keep their businesses running. This can be risky, affecting your ability to pay off personal obligations and ultimately hurting your personal and business credit rating.

What can you do if you find yourself in this bind?

  • Do everything you can to cut costs so you don’t need as much capital.
  • Look into alternative sources of financing that rely less on your business credit rating. Invoice-based financing or equipment financing, for example, allow you to turn receivables or planned equipment purchases into “collateral” for loans that can help you grow.
  • Seek loans or investments from friends and family to avoid hurting your personal credit rating. Be sure to treat them as you would any type of loan or investment, including issuing stock and drawing up loan documents.
  • If you’re launching a new product or service, consider crowdfunding your growth via peer-to-peer sites such as Kickstarter.

Businesswoman Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Are Women Entrepreneurs Putting Their Personal Credit at Risk?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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5 Essential Apps For Setting Up a Tech Business From Scratch

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

033015 evernote

Did you know that back in 1982 the high-tech entrepreneurship rate was 60 percent in the U.S.?

You would think that with the advancements that have been made in technology during recent years that rate would have increased — or at least remained at a high level. That hasn’t exactly been the case.

By 2011, the rate of high-tech entrepreneurship fell to 38 percent. Even more disparaging is the fact that most tech startups fail within 20 months after receiving funding.

Does this mean that the tech industry is doomed? Of course not.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of tech-industry jobs has risen from around 2.2 million to 4 million jobs from 1997 to 2012. Furthermore, according to the Kauffman Foundation, tech entrepreneurship can still pack an economic punch.

The wearable technology field, for example, is a $700 million industry. And, with both the economy and entrepreneurship on the rise, there’s still plenty of opportunities for a tech business to survive.

Defining apps in the beginning is crucial for many reasons, especially as you grow as a business. If apps are not defined, employees may turn to their own apps for computer and mobile usage, leading to Shadow IT issues that you may have to clean up later, which can be expensive to clean up in the future.

If you want to make the commitment to launching your own tech business, here are some tips for setting up a tech business from Scratch.

Mention

Before starting any business, it’s imperative that you conduct market research. Mention can be used to see what people are saying about your industry, since it aggregates user generated content from social media platforms, forums, blogs and websites in real-time. In short, you can use Mention to see if there is a buzz surrounding your particular industry.

If you notice that there is an interest in your tech product, you can continue to use Mention to discover what the online world is saying about your product and business. Mention also has the ability to share these findings with team members so that you can collaborate accordingly.

Pricing starts at $29 per month and comes with a single interface that can be used on your desktop or mobile device.

GitHub

If you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of , or even used, GitHub. After all, it’s a powerful Git repository hosting service that has helped developers collaborate, review code and manage tasks with their open source projects. For example, Sam Lavigne used GitHub to create a pretty handy program that converts any text into a patent application.

With more than 20 million repositories, GitHub has more than tools to help young businesses grow. For the times that you’re on the go, GitHub does have an app so that you’ll be able to keep tabs on your project.

Wrike

When launching a business managing a project is an absolute necessity. That’s why a tool like Wrike comes in handy. With Wrike, you can collaborate with team members to assign tasks and keep track on the progress of a project. With this software you can plan product management with either Agile or Waterfall planning. And, when it’s time to market your product, you can use Wrike to establish your marketing campaign.

Another huge benefit with Wrike is that it integrates with tools like Gmail, Dropbox, Salesforce, HubSpot, GitHub, WordPress, HipChat, LinkedIn and Quickbooks, to name a few.

Wrike is free to use if your team is under five members. For larger businesses plans start at $49 per month.

Evernote

Evernote is probably one of the most useful tools for any business owner. Not only can you create shopping or to-do-lists, you can also use it to review prototypes, draw up concept sketches and collect everything from handwritten notes, and business cards to news articles and images. The Evernote Business features include a workstation for team members during brainstorming sessions or product launching. You can even convert your ideas into presentations without taking the time to create slides.

Yet another perk of Evernote is that it’s able to connect with business apps like Feedly, CloudMagic and Zapier, to name a few. The Evernote app is free to download, however, Evernote Business starts at $10 per month per user.

WeVideo

Instead of trying to explain how your product works, why not create a video that actually demonstrates it in action? With the WeVideo app, you can easily edit and share your videos with everyone from co-workers to investors to potential customers. Best of all? All of your hard work is stored on the WeVideo Cloud, so you don’t have to be concerned with eating up your mobile device’s memory. And, you even have access to reports that show you important data like how many times your video has been viewed.

The WeVideo app is free to download, but if you need something more powerful you may want to consider a Business plan that starts at $15 per month.

Image: Evernote

This article, “5 Essential Apps For Setting Up a Tech Business From Scratch” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Read “Captivology” And Learn How to Grab Your Customers Attention

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

033015 captivologyHow many times do you get distracted during the day?

I can tell you that I sat down to write this particular book review at least three times. I would write a sentence or two and something would grab my attention as being more important than the next sentence.

In fact, I just stopped writing in mid-sentence to clean up a breakfast mess I was looking at from my desk.

Ugh!

And what about running your business? It’s one distraction after another that takes your attention from running your business to “putting our fires” and addressing the proverbial squeaky wheels. It’s no wonder that the phrase, “Working on your business instead of in it,” is so popular.

Then, there are your customers. If you are this distracted, what about them?

Of course, they are distracted by the same things that distract you. These days, it’s the human condition.

Captivology Gives You a Blueprint for Grabbing Attention.

It’s this dance between attention/distraction that has captured our imagination like no other topic in the 21st Century, as evidenced by the success of books like “Made to Stick”, “Enchantment”, “Hooked”, “Fascinate” and many others.

If you’re a fan of these books, then lean in, because I’ve got some killer brain candy for you called “Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention” by Ben Parr (@BenParr).

Parr is an award winning journalist, entrepreneur, investor, and expert on attention. He was the co-editor and editor-at-large at Mashable and served as a columnist for CNET. Parr was named one of the top 10 tech journalist in the world by Say Media and named to the Forbes 30 under 30.

Personally, I love books written by journalists because of their unique ability to do ridiculous amounts of research and craft their learning into content that is not only educational and informative, but fun to read.

“Captivology” is exactly that kind of book, fun, entertaining, educational and actually filled with practical ideas that you can use in your own quest to grab your customer’s attention in an ever-crowded, information-overload world.

Discover the Science Behind When we Pay Attention, When we Tune Out, and Why

Parr dedicated several years of research into 500 studies on attention psychology and neurology to write this book. He interviewed more than 50 PhDs, researchers, and thought leaders, including Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, film director Steven Soderbergh, and illusionist David Copperfield.

As a result, he categorizes attention into three distinct types: immediate, short and long attention. Then he takes this a step further and lays out seven triggers that grab attention and how to use them. Here is a short summary of each one:

  1. Automaticity: Use specific sensory clues like colors, symbols, and sounds to capture attention based on automatic reactions to certain stimuli.
  2. Framing: Adapt to or change people’s expectations to change what they pay attention to.
  3. Disruption: Violate peoples’ expectations to change what they pay attention to.
  4. Reward: Leverage peoples’ motivations for intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.
  5. Reputation: Using the reputations of experts, authorities and crowd to instill trust and captivate audiences.
  6. Mystery: Create mystery, uncertainty and suspense to keep an audience intrigued until the very end.
  7. Acknowledgement: Foster a deeper connection between those people who tend to pay attention and those who provide them with validation and understanding.

How to Use “Captivology” to Get What You Want – NOW

One of my favorite examples in the book is in the Reputation Trigger chapter. Parr gives some specific advice to journalists and public relations professionals about how to get the word out about their company and product. He writes:

“It’s no surprise that, when most startups pitch journalist to write about their businesses, they get no response. It’s because inexperienced entrepreneurs tend to do one, some, or all of the following:

  • Cold call or send her a cold email.
  • Write 10 paragraphs in the body of an email explaining your startup and its virtues. (the journalist never gets past the second paragraph)
  • Feel very email with buzz words like synergy, game changing, next-generation, and never before seen.
  • Buy Facebook ads to target specific journalists.
  • Send a press release. (No journalist read through these press releases anymore.)”

Each trigger chapter in the book has practical advice like this. In fact, I’ve dog-eared several of them and I know you’re going to as well.

Add “Captivology” to Your Library If …”

If you are a marketer, salesperson, small business owner, or even if you are in the non-profit area, “Captivology” needs to be on your nightstand and in your library.

If you already own books like “Made to Stick” or Guy Kawasak’s “Enchantment” you won’t be able to resist “Captivology”. In fact, with graduation season coming up, “Captivology” is a great gift for the new graduate who is looking to stand out in a competitive job market.

This article, “Read “Captivology” And Learn How to Grab Your Customers Attention” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Don’t Miss Out, AM DAYS, ICON15 Happen This Week

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

AM DaysEDIT
We’ve got two big events right around the corner. If you haven’t checked them out yet you should do it now.

AM DAYS Affiliate Management Days Conference is happening in San Francisco beginning Monday Monday 30. This event will help those with an existing affiliate program or those looking to create one. Checkout the discount code below to get 10 percent off a full conference registration.

Also beginning this week is the ICON 15 conference. This is Infusionsoft’s annual small business user conference. Keynote speakers, ideas, training, and support are just some of the things you can take advantage of at this event.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.



Featured Events, Contests and Awards

AM DAYS Affiliate Management Days ConferenceAM DAYS Affiliate Management Days Conference
March 30, 2015, San Francisco, Calif.

The Affiliate Management Days San Francisco 2015 conference is an event for marketing managers and those responsible for their company’s affiliate marketing strategy, management and operations. Whether you have an existing affiliate program or you’re creating a new initiative, AM Days provides insight into how others are successfully implementing and managing their affiliate programs. Receive 10% off a full conference registration with the discount code: SBIZSF15!


ICON15 ICON15
March 30, 2015, Phoenix, Ariz.

ICON is the signature small business event of Infusionsoft, for its customers, partners and in general, for passionate entrepreneurs, small business owners and industry experts to gather for three days of networking, education and inspiration. Over 4,000 are expected to attend in 2015.


Moz ConMoz Con
July 13, 2015, Seattle, Wash.

Not your average stuffy networking event, MozCon features three days of forward-thinking, actionable sessions in SEO, social media, community building, content marketing, brand development, CRO, the mobile landscape, analytics, and more. MozCon speakers share advanced advice on everything from building a loyal community to making data-driven decisions in your marketing.


BlogHerBlogHer
July 16, 2015, New York City, N.Y.

A conference celebrating women who blog. The mission is to create opportunities for women in social media to gain community, education, exposure and economic empowerment. The event will be co-hosted along with SheKnows Media in New York City at the New York Hilton.


Adobe MaxAdobe Max
October 03, 2015, Los Angeles, Calif.

MAX provides strictly unplugged, old-school inspiration with a mix of people from creative leaders, designers, broadcast and video pros, tech and business strategists, photographers, and more. This shared energy and passion sparks new ideas, drives new partnerships, and breaks new ground every year. MAX attracts inspirational and iconic speakers that share their personal stories. GRAMMY-award winning band Kings of Leon will be there and you can connect with 5,000 other creatives at daily social events.


DreamforceDreamforce
October 13, 2015, San Francisco, Calif.

Whether you’re a company of five or a Fortune 500, you’ll learn a lot of innovative ways to improve your business at Dreamforce. With over 1,400 sessions and thousands of live solutions from the world’s largest cloud ecosystem, Dreamforce has tailored content specific to your business size and type, for any role in your company.


Global Small Business ForumGlobal Small Business Forum
October 23, 2015, Chicago, Ill.

The Global Small Business Forum 2015 held in Chicago will help entrepreneurs and small business owners export successfully and network with their peers. It will answer such questions as: What’s the best way to ship goods? How will I get paid? Do I need a license? Should I sell direct or indirect? Does my business have what it takes to sell in China?


World Business Forum New York 2015World Business Forum New York 2015
November 12, 2015, New York City, N.Y.

In 2015 the World Business Forum will present two days of powerful stories; of individuals who face shocks – both personal and organizational – and who use those shocks to achieve the extraordinary. Speakers include Sir Richard Branson, Jim Collins, a former faculty member at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Walter Isaacson, once the 14th editor of TIME magazine in 1996 and named Chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, Adam Grant, author of the New York Times bestseller Give and Take and Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Leadership and Learning and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD.


More Events

More Contests

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

This article, “Don’t Miss Out, AM DAYS, ICON15 Happen This Week” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Ideas for Maximizing Your Business Online

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

online businessEDIT
Your company needs some kind of online presence if you want to succeed in today’s business world. Whether it’s a blog, social media or other kind of website, developing a comprehensive online presence is key to making a modern business thrive. But creating and maintaining such an online presence takes time and constant work. Luckily, members of our small business community have experience in all areas of running and marketing their businesses online. Read their tips in this week’s Small Business Trends community and information roundup.

Follow These Blogs for Entrepreneurs

(Wealthy Gorilla)

You can gain a lot of entrepreneurial knowledge by learning about the successes and failures of other business owners. Business blogs can be great resources for such information. And here, Dan Western rounded up 40 top blogs for entrepreneurs. Small Business Trends is honored to be included.

Break These Social Media Rules

(Ragan.com)

There are a lot of “rules” when it comes to posting on social media: post links to other people’s content more than your own, use one or two hashtags per post, etc. But not all of these rules will be best for every business. Zoe Summers points out a couple of the social media rules you might want to ignore here. And BizSugar members discussed the post further here.

Design a Website that Works for Your Business

(Social Media Slant)

The design of your website can make a huge impact on whether or not people will visit and actually stick around. There are so many different factors that go into designing an effective website, so Cendrine Marrouat spoke with designer Jon Whitbeck about what goes into a good business website.

Use These Time Saving Tools for Social Management

(eastlackmedia)

Any business with an online presence should be using some kind of social media to reach customers. Posting and tracking mentions on a bunch of different platforms can be pretty time consuming though. So Steven Eastlack suggests using some of these time saving tools for social media management.

Improve Customer Engagement Online

(BizSmallBiz)

Having a successful social media presence means more than just posting links and updates a few times per day. You also need to interact with customers. In this post, Erik Emanuelli shares some tips for interacting with customers online. And the BizSugar community shared some additional thoughts on the topic here.

Find Out Why Your Company Might Be Losing Followers

(ME Marketing Services)

Getting followers is only part of the battle when it comes to succeeding on social media. You also have to work constantly to provide great content so that they’ll stick around. There are a few common mistakes that can make customers likely to unfollow, as Jordana Klein points out here.

Improve Your Writing

(The Attorney Marketing Center)

Whether you’re an attorney, an artist or any other kind of business owner, the ability to write great content can be a huge asset. But the trick is being able to write in a way that people can actually follow and relate to. In this post, David M. Ward shares a simple way to improve your writing skills.

Have Clear Goals in Mind for Your Website

(Susan Solovic)

Your blog or business website should be an online representation of your brand. So as your business grows and changes, so should your website. That means that every few years of so, you should consider a website redesign. But according to Susan Solovic, you need to set very specific goals for your redesign in order for it to move your brand forward.

Generate Visitors Through Long-Tail Search

(Neil Patel)

When working on your site’s SEO, you’ll focus a lot on one-word keywords. But long-tail keywords can be equally useful for certain websites. Here, Neil Patel gives an in-depth look at long-tail keywords and how they can help grow your website’s audience.

Avoid These Ecommerce Mistakes

(The Drive)

When selling products online, you have to use a lot of different online marketing techniques. And there are a lot of common mistakes that can go along with using those methods, as Susan Payton shares here. Members of the BizSugar community also commented on the post here.

Help us make these community roundups better in the future. Email your suggestions to sbtips@gmail.com or just submit content to the BizSugar community.

Online business photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Ideas for Maximizing Your Business Online” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Tickle Your Funny Bone: 20 Desk Toys for the Office

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

033015 drinking bird toy

Personalizing your work-space can boost your moral. Fun gadgets and toys can keep you company during those long work hours and provide some amusement to break the stress. A hilarious or unexpected knick-knack can spark conversations with co-workers or maybe even customers and clients.

Check out this list of 20 desk toys for the office that can bring a smile to your face.

Pick Up the Cent Bank

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Loose change can be a bother, but here’s our two cents. Turn those spare coins into a source of amusement with this Pick Up the Cent Bank available at ModCloth. Just place a coin on the button and wait for the kitty to pop out and swipe it away.

Dinosaur Planter

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Get a blast from the past with one of these dinosaur planters. The humble plastic dino gets a new life as the home to a piece of nature. There’s also the added health benefit of having a little green in your work space.

Cell Phone Fiddle Plaque

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Place this plaque in your office for a two-fold effect. Get a laugh from co-workers but also give them a friendly reminder to be considerate.

Uglydoll

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It’s a little monster that is so ugly it’s cute. You can’t really help but stop and laugh when faced with this guy’s face. Who knew a vinyl figurine could lift your spirits?

Snowtime Anytime Snowballs

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Keep this pile of plush snowballs around and you can start your own office snowball fight. You never have to worry about them melting and creating a mess. They are fun year-round. Bonus points for being machine washable!

Genius Paperclip Holder

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No digging for paperclips in the bottom of a drawer for you. This magnetic head shaped in the form of the all too familiar brainiac keeps your supplies at hand and a smile on your face.

USB Pet Rock

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The homely pet rock is getting a tech upgrade, though this doesn’t seem to improve its usefulness. Your pet rock still just sits on a desk, but now it sits on a desk AND takes up one of your USB ports. Best. Pet. Ever.

Sushi Pushpins

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Is that sushi sitting on their desk? Nope but it is a fun and useful office accessory fit for raw fish lovers. The fish egg pins stay in place until needed in a seaweed wrapped cushion. At least, that’s what it looks like.

Captain Jules’s Useless Box

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As the name suggests, this box is useless. That is unless you think getting a laugh from your co workers is a use. Press the button, watch the gears turn and the box open, and then watch it promptly shut again. Yep that’s all it does.

Gnome-Be-Gone Decision Maker

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This one is for the indecisive individual with a taste for humor and an industrial edge. Spin the base of this steel pencil holder and get an answer to your pressing questions.

Shot From a Cannon Bookends

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So this one isn’t exactly an office toy, but it is a whole lot of fun. These quirky bookends add a touch of amusement and whimsy to any office. They can be displayed on your bookshelf or even desk.

Pop! Animation

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This line of vinyl figures features characters from countless movies, TV shows, games, and more. The signature big eyes and head sit atop little detailed bodies for an undeniably fun toy. With so many to choose from the problem becomes where to stop.

Tengu USB-Powered Character

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It will keep you company during those long hours at the office. Tengu lights up to brighten your day and lip syncs to music, your voice, or other noises.

10-Doh! Figure

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Its name is a pun. This figurine is crafted to look like an old Nintendo game cartridge and can grace the desk of anyone with a gamer heart. You can even personalize it with an option to design your own game label.

Tabletop Air Hockey

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Here’s one for the arcade lovers. This tabletop version is a functioning mini replica of the ever popular game. Keep this on your desk and you’ve got a boredom buster that you can share.

Stuffed Blobfish

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He’s hilarious because he’s so ugly. Ugly and yet lovable. This pink plush is in the shape of the endangered blob fish, considered by some to be the ugliest creature in the world. But hey, blob fish need love too!

Desktop Dumpster

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Do you find yourself in the middle of the day and itching to express your graffiti art? With this desktop dumpster you can have a convenient and legal place to tag right at the office.

Mini Wind-Up Robot

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Wind-up robots are a classic and showcase your fun side. Sit this guy on your desk and you’ve got a space-age buddy that offers laughs and entertainment.

Panda Pile-Up

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No one will be expecting this one. A pile of pandas is fun enough but this desk toy is also a game. See how many you can manage to stack on the tire using a pair of chopsticks.

Toymail

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These odd creatures sit on your desk and can receive messages. Messages are sent through an app and your desktop pet will snort, wheeze, howl or growl to let you know. To add to the humor messages can be read back to you in a funny voice.

So there it is, a list of fun and hilarious desk toys for the office you might not have seen before. Hopefully it’s given you some inspiration and laughs. Don’t be afraid to add a little humor to your day at work.

Drinking Bird Toy Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Tickle Your Funny Bone: 20 Desk Toys for the Office” was first published on Small Business Trends

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