Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Amazon Chime Helps Small Businesses with Web Meetings and Chats

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Amazon Chime Web Application for Meetings and Chat Debuts

You can now connect to more devices with Amazon Chime by using the new web application to carry out your meetings and chats.

Amazon Chime Web Application

As long as you have a browser supported device, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) says you can start communicating, even on Linux or ChromeOS platforms, without downloading or installing a client application. And the new feature comes with a pricing model familiar to users of Amazon services — pay-as-you-go.

With more small businesses using video and chat features to talk to their customers, vendors and freelance workers across the world, the pay-as-you-go pricing structure may be a helpful option. And best of all, you are only charged $3 per-day on days you host a meeting, with a cap of $15 for the whole month.

Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist for Amazon Web Services, writes on the official AWS blog how the decision for the pay-as-you-go pricing model was based on customer feedback. Barr also writes, “Based on historical usage patterns, this will result in an overall price reduction for virtually all Amazon Chime customers.”

The New Web Application

If you want to use Chime on your browser, you go to the web application or click on the link you have been provided to join a meeting.  You don’t need an Amazon Chime account to join a meeting but registered Amazon Chime users can access more features. These include group chats, ad-hoc calls, meeting scheduling, meeting host controls and more. These users can also get notifications to join scheduled meetings with the auto-call feature.

What is Amazon Chime?

Amazon Chime was launched in February 2017 as a real-time unified communications solution which delivers video conferencing, online meetings, calls, and chat through an application in sync across all of your devices.

As Chime continues to sync chats and meetings, users can join on their Android, iOS, Mac and Windows devices while being able to switch between them also.

Flexibility, scalability, low price and the fact no infrastructure is required are all factors making the app popular with users across all budgets.

You can try Amazon Chime free for 30 days with access to all of the features. When the trial period is over, you can still continue to chat and attend meetings at no charge. However, when hosting meetings there will be a charge of $3 per day and a maximum of $15 per month.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Amazon Chime Helps Small Businesses with Web Meetings and Chats” was first published on Small Business Trends


U.S. Department of Defense Must Work Harder to Include Small Business Contractors, Audit Says

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Defense Contracts for Small Businesses too Few

An audit of two Army Contracting Command centers in Redstone, Alabama and Warren, Michigan, revealed The Department of Defense (DOD) must increase its efforts in order to meet small business subcontracting goals.

The DOD Inspector General Audit was carried out in three different branches. One audit was performed on the Army, and two each on the Marine Corps and the Air Force. According to the audit, small businesses may have lost opportunities because protocols were not followed which could have encouraged more small businesses to be part of the federal marketplace.

Defense Contracts for Small Businesses

Small businesses have been specifically included in the federal contract bidding process to both support and encourage growth in communities across the country. Head of the House Small Business Committee U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri) announced in Nov. 2017 his desire to raise the federal government’s contracting goal for small businesses to 25 percent, a two percent increase from the current 23 percent target for contracts to be awarded to small businesses today.

The drive to increase the rate comes after the fed actually did manage to hit its contracting goals for 2017.

In a press release addressing the results of the audit and moving forward, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida), Ranking Member of the Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee, said, “The federal procurement process can be a powerful tool for stimulating growth and helping small businesses succeed.  On the Small Business Committee, I’ll continue working to ensure more entrepreneurs can access the federal marketplace and win their fair share of federal work, whether that’s working directly with the U.S. government or as a subcontractor for a larger firm.”

Findings of the Audit

But this year, the Inspector General’s audit reported two Army Contracting Command centers failed to observe the subcontracting plans developed to insure the inclusion of small businesses. Under these plans, prime contractors must make a good-faith effort to ensure they provide small businesses with opportunities for participating in federal contract projects.

The Inspector General found close to half of the contracts it examined failed to meet these requirements, a total of 23 contracts valued at around $915 million.

The two locations awarded six contracts worth $330.7 million without a subcontracting plan in place — or where no subcontracting possibilities existed without a contracting officer’s consent. Another contract valued at $480.3 million didn’t have a monitoring system in place to keep track of a prime contractors’ compliance with subcontracting plans for 11 contracts.

Finally, in the case of six other contracts valued at $103.7 million, small business subcontracting goals were not met and subcontractor goals were misreported.

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This article, “U.S. Department of Defense Must Work Harder to Include Small Business Contractors, Audit Says” was first published on Small Business Trends


They Call the New Consultant – the Sales Charmer

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Snake Charmer Business Cartoon

OK, I have to admit, this one makes me nervous.

The idea of a snake charmer influencing a sales graph is fairly good, and it’s a fun visual. But it raises a lot of red flags.

Should the charmer be shaded for ethnicity? Should he not? Is this culturally insensitive somehow? Is it not a big deal?

Seriously, I just want to do a snake charmer joke, but frankly I don’t know how many groups of people I might anger.

I tried my best on this one, but if there’s something I didn’t consider it’s because I don’t know what I don’t know.

Still, it’s kinda funny … I hope.

This article, “They Call the New Consultant – the Sales Charmer” was first published on Small Business Trends


Obama-Era Union Rules Hit Small Businesses Hardest – But Changes Could be Coming!

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Obama Ambush Ruling Hurts Small Business More Than Others

Former President Barack Obama’s labor rules that cut down the time between filing for a union election and the vote have hit small businesses the hardest, The Washington Free Beacon Reports.

Obama’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), responsible for overseeing union elections and enforcing labor laws, changed rules governing the process of unionizing the workforce. The changes expedited the election process, cutting down the time business management is notified about an election to when voting begins, from 38 days to 23.

Obama Ambush Ruling

Obama’s “ambush ruling” has appeared to prop up the union success rate in winning elections. Overall, unions are back to winning about 69 percent of elections, which is on par for unions’ historic win rate. Unions usually win elections because they put off petitioning for a vote until they are reasonably sure they can win.

In 2015 after the rule took effect, unions won about three percent more than in 2014. Compared to 2012 and 2013 data, the jump was about 8 percent.

The effect is more pronounced at smaller firms with fewer resources and access to expert labor lawyers. Smaller firms are also less adept at addressing union filings and informing management of labor law.

“Before the rule was changed, the union-win rate for bargaining units with 25 or less people was 69 percent. In the three years since, the win rate went up to 74 percent,” management-side law firm Fisher Phillips’ Steve Bernstein told the Free Beacon.

The NLRB under President Donald Trump has begun reviewing the Obama-era rule changes.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Obama-Era Union Rules Hit Small Businesses Hardest – But Changes Could be Coming!” was first published on Small Business Trends


Early Easter, Cold and Snow Hurt April Retail Sales, Report Says

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

RetailNext Retail Performance Pulse April 2018

Cold weather, snow storms and an early Easter Holiday did their part to fuel a drop in retail traffic in April (7.8%) that in turn decreased sales by 5.6% for the same period year over year.  The findings were part of the RetailNext Retail Performance Pulse report, a performance review for brick and mortar retail stores in the U.S.

RetailNext Retail Performance Pulse April 2018

Declines in Traffic and Sales

The declines in traffic and sales were partially offset by a 0.9 point upward swing in conversion, measured by calculating sales transactions as a percentage of traffic. This metric has been riding a positive trend for six of the last seven months.

The current year over year report compared the period of April 9 through May 6, 2017 to April 8 through May 5, 2018. Seven million shipping trips in the continental United States were analyzed.

Best Numbers

April experienced its best numbers during the third week of the month. Three important metrics — conversion, net sales and average transaction value — were up for that week. April saw it best sales day Saturday, April 28 while reached its highest point Thursday, April 26.

Traffic hit its lowest point on Monday, April 16.


Regionally, the Northeast saw sales drop 4.1% year over year and traffic decrease 9.3%. The Midwest experienced a sales decrease of 8.2%, the worst for any region. The West saw sales and traffic dip at 6.4% and 7.7% respectively.

The South didn’t do any better with the second-highest sales decline (6.9%) and traffic numbers that dropped by 5.6%.

RetailNext uses SaaS software to collect and analyze shopper’s data. They have their headquarters in San Jose, CA. Over 300 retailers in 60 different countries have adopted their analytics platform.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Early Easter, Cold and Snow Hurt April Retail Sales, Report Says” was first published on Small Business Trends


10 CAD Tools for Your Small Manufacturing Business

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

10 CAD Tools for Your Small Manufacturing Business

Computer-aided design, or CAD, is an essential tool for any manufacturing or product design business. There are plenty of different software programs out there that can help you with this function, but knowing which ones to choose can be a bit tricky.

Dan Taylor, content analyst at software review and research platform Capterra said in an email to Small Business Trends, “You have to be careful choosing CAD software, because while CAD is used in manufacturing it is also used in construction, and some software may be suited more for one than the other. This is why it’s important to try out software first.”

CAD Tools

If you’re looking for a new CAD software to try out for your manufacturing business, here are a few different options to consider.


AutoCAD is a 3D CAD program that Taylor says is popular with a lot of manufacturing and product design companies. It’s available for Mac and Windows on a subscription basis, with different rates depending on the length of your subscription. Features include 3D modeling and visualization, customization options and a mobile app for working on the go.


From TurboCAD, DesignCAD is a software suite that offers both 2D and 3D design options. The 3D CAD program includes features for rendering, animation, modeling and more. The program costs $99.99 with optional upgrades also available.

Solidworks 3D CAD

Solidworks offers three different versions of its CAD software. The standard edition includes 3D design features for creating parts, assemblies and drawings. The premium and professional versions then include some advanced collaboration and simulation options to take those designs to the next level. Pricing is customized based on each company’s needs, so you need to contact the team directly to determine the cost and features you need. A free trial period is also available.


Vectorworks offers a number of different software options for different types of design and products, ranging from architecture to structural design. So you can check out the different options and find the one that best fits with your business’s niche. The company also offers mobile solutions and a trial version.


FreeCAD is a product design and modeling platform that is, as its name suggests, free. It’s an open source tool with multi platform reads and open file format options. Since it’s so customizable, it takes a bit of tech knowledge to navigate, but the price allows you to at least try it out without making a major upfront investment.

Creo Parametric 3D Modeling Software

A 3D CAD tool specifically made for product development, Creo Parametric offers both design and automation features intended to help product makers bring their ideas to market faster. You can use it for everything from framework design to sheetmetal modeling. There’s a free trial with customized pricing options available afterward.

TurboCAD Deluxe 2018

The latest version of TurboCAD, this option includes both 2D and 3D design options. The 3D design capabilities allow you to create realistic renderings of products perfect for those who need to present new product ideas. It does also include some architectural features as well as 3D printing capabilities. Priced at $149.99, there’s also a free trial option available.


Shapr3D is a tool for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It’s not as fully featured as some other 3D CAD tools. But for small manufacturers that prefer working on a tablet or using 3D printing, it can be a unique and cost effective option. The Pro version is $300 per year, and there’s also a free option available for beginners if you’d like to play around with the technology.


For programmers or those with a knowledge of coding, OpenSCAD offers a free and open solution for creating 3D designs and models. It’s available to download for Linux/UNIX, Windows and Mac. It offers a variety of features that focus more on the CAD aspect than design.


SolveSpace is another free offering that allows you to create digital models of 3D products. It gives you the ability to set dimensions, create 3D shapes, analyze measurements and export the designs. It is an open source tool and offers a constraint-based modeling feature and simulation capabilities for Windows, Mac and Linux users.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 CAD Tools for Your Small Manufacturing Business” was first published on Small Business Trends


5 Characteristics of High Performance Culture

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Sponsored Post

5 Characteristics of High Performance Culture

It’s no secret that motivation is important to doing good work. “Company culture” has become a popular term among corporate leaders; more and more companies are focusing on creating a culture that fosters motivation in their workforce. This is more than a simple fad: According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), “Why we work determines how well we work.” Motivation is the key to unlocking performance.

In a study conducted on the effects of motivation, groups were given the same task (to find anomalies on medical images), but with different motivating factors. One group was paid more but told their results would be discarded, while the other group was paid less and told they were looking for signs of cancer in patients. The second group consistently outperformed the first. High work performance is more than a factor of pay.

Characteristics of High Performance Culture

While people can be motivated to varying degrees by different forces, there are some common factors that affect motivation in most people and settings. HBR cites factors used by several high performing companies — like Trader Joe’s or Southwest Airlines — to achieve Total Motivation. The goal of Total Motivation is to reduce employees’ motivation because of factors like economic pressure or emotional pressure and to increase the impact of factors like purpose and play. Simply put: High performing companies work to make sure their employees want to do their jobs.

There are five main characteristics that high performance companies have in common.

Open Communication

Emotional pressure often comes from not knowing what to expect from your company, managers and fellow employees. When team members are unsure how their performance is measured, what’s expected of them or how their work product affects the bigger picture, motivation (and performance) can suffer.

At Credit Karma, transparency and open communication form the basis for the company’s culture. The company has an “open door” policy, encouraging people to ask their managers questions. Honesty is present in every conversation; managers don’t hide things from their employees, and employees are encouraged to share information with each other. And management is always upfront about why decisions are made and how they affect the company and its employees.

Because Credit Karma has a culture of transparency and open communication, employees are aware of the context in which their work exists and aren’t afraid of what’s coming. They have the information they need to make good business decisions, and they understand how their performance affects the company and their coworkers.

Customer-Centric Mission

Customer satisfaction is critical to a business’ success. According to statistics compiled by Salesforce, 89 percent of consumers stop doing business with a company after a poor customer experience. Forty-five percent abandon online transactions when their customer issue isn’t resolved quickly. Further, a 10 percent increase in customer retention results in a 30 percent increase to a company’s value.

To make sure the customer has a good experience and remains a customer, companies must become customer-centric. This means making the customer experience a part of your company’s core mission and values, prioritizing the customer experience over other concerns, and ensuring employees understand how their work impacts the customer experience and are rewarded when they provide a good experience for customers.

Empowered Employees and Leadership at All Levels

Richard Branson of The Virgin Group famously said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” A big part of taking care of your employees is allowing them to be in control of their own lives at the company. Empowered employees are able to make decisions about how they accomplish their goals and have control over their day-to-day experience at the company.

Empowered employees are also given the support and tools they need to do the job. They’re given training, authority and access to resources that allow them to be effective in their roles within the company. Virgin goes on to say, “By taking care of their people, companies create a workforce with the physical energy, mental focus, and emotional drive necessary to power their businesses and impact those critical metrics.”

Great Performance Management Process

To improve employee performance, you must be able to measure that performance. A performance management process does just that. By using metrics that are measurable and meaningful to the company, you can track employee performance, make corrections as needed and reward employees for good performance.

A performance management process is typically a replacement for a standard review process. Rather than checking in on performance annually, a performance management process is continual and ensures the employee has specific, measurable, achievable goals to work toward. This both reduces employee stress and creates a tangible sense of progress and achievement that can boost morale and motivation in the company.

Invested in Employee Growth

Investing in employee growth has many concrete benefits for companies. In addition to building necessary skills in your workforce, an employee you’ve invested in is more prepared for promotion and can start taking on more and more responsibility within the company. Such employees also tend to be more loyal; this is vital to increasing employee retention. The cost of employee turnover is high, and it’s usually better for a company to invest in existing employees rather than find new ones. Investing in your employees also increases their engagement, makes them feel more valued and forces you to think about the future of your company.

An online business degree can give you the tools you need to create a dynamic, high performance culture at your company. Campbellsville University’s online programs allow you to earn the degree you need in a flexible environment, on a schedule that works for your busy life.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “5 Characteristics of High Performance Culture” was first published on Small Business Trends


10 Traits to Make You Better at Sales in your Small Business

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

How to Be Good at Sales

People are born great at sales with an built-in knack of knowing how to sell, sell, sell, right? Wrong! With the right advice, a can-do, proactive attitude, some quality training and experience on the job,  you can fine-tune your selling skills and master the art of being a compelling, credible and successful salesperson. And this could be especially important for small business owners.

How to Be Good at Sales

If you’re still in the early stages with your small business you may be the only one talking to customers about your products or  services. So take a look at the following traits you may need to be good at sales.

Learn How to Listen

Granted, successful salespeople are good communicators, but communication is a two-way process, and the best sales reps are good at listening. By building your ‘listening muscle’ and listening to a prospect’s needs, concerns and objectives, you will be able to fulfil such aims and requirements and annul any concerns with greater success than if you weren’t aware of the prospect’s thoughts.

Show Enthusiasm, Motivation and a Hunger to Succeed

One key challenge of any sales environment is staying motivated. Successful salespeople believe in what they are doing and are always motivated, enthusiastic and have a hunger to succeed. Retaining motivation is a vital component of sales success.

Have a Successful Sales Strategy

Rather than just picking up the phone and blindly trying to sell, only to find yourself exhausted and dejected with little to show, create and stick to a comprehensive and effective sales strategy.

This strategy should include defining your target market, knowing which questions you are going to ask a prospect, delivering on what you said you would do for the prospect, monitoring how well the sale is working, and repeating this same process with every sale you do.

Know How to Multitask

Sales isn’t, by any means, a single-task job. To excel in the cutthroat world of sales, you need to be proficient at multitasking, juggling a sales call with one hand, whilst typing up an email in the other. Well, this might be a tad of an exaggeration successful sales is a thoughtful and meticulous activity and being capable of processing different tasks and prioritising responsibilities, is one aspect of sales that shouldn’t go overlooked.

Be Honest

A far cry from the stereotype of the dishonest car salesman, fraudulently taking miles off the clock, successful salespeople are honest and are aware of the pitfalls of dishonesty. By being honest and having a prospect’s best interests at the heart of the deal, you will be seen as a credible and reliable sales representative in your field, with people wanting to do business with you because of your honesty and genuine drive to fulfil the aspirations of your prospects.

By contrast, dishonesty might make you a ‘quick win’ but in the long-term you’re unlikely to be recommended by others and develop a credible professional reputation.

Avoid Being Too Pushy

Another adverse image of a high-flying salesperson is that they are pushy, obnoxious and don’t understand the word no!

As nobody likes to deal with an overly pushy salesperson, it’s important to know your limits when it comes to selling your products or services. It’s important to strike the right balance between getting your point across but not pushing a prospect too far.

Adapting certain techniques such as removing the pressure from the sales, taking your time over the sales process, letting the prospect do the talking and focusing on their issues and concerns instead of your product, will help you bond a deeper connection with your prospect and create a positive sales environment to help you sell with greater success.

Show Empathy

A quality salesperson knows how to feel what their prospects feel. In fact, practicing empathy is a vital trait for every business but in sales, empathy and getting inside a prospect’s skin, is an effective way to anticipate what they want.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Networking

Networking is one of the most effective prospecting tools in any salesperson’s toolbox. Successful salespeople are not afraid to show up at networking events and get involved with the community and prospective clients and customers, getting to know people and raising awareness about their brand and products or services.

Be a Good Communicator

Being a good communicator is a skill every successful salesperson needs to have mastered. It’s never too late to fine-tune both verbal and written communication skills and embarking on communication training could be a worthwhile investment in helping you become more proficient and successful at selling.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Traits to Make You Better at Sales in your Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends


Adobe Acquisition of Magento Offers Potential Ecommerce Services for Small Businesses

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Why Did Adobe Acquire Magento?

Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) announced it is purchasing the privately-held ecommerce company Magento for $1.68 billion in a cash and stock transaction. The deal caught many by surprise, but the market responded favorably.

Why Did Adobe Acquire Magento?

For Adobe and its competition in the multichannel campaign management segment, full-featured ecommerce solutions have become an integral part of their offering. Adobe will now be able to bring Magento Commerce into its Adobe Experience Cloud for a platform serving B2B and B2C customers around the world.

Small businesses using the Adobe suite of services and Magento’s ecommerce platform together will have to wait and see how the merger will benefit them. Mark Lavelle, CEO of Magento, said in a press release, “We’re excited to join Adobe and believe this will be a great opportunity for our customers, partners and developer community.”

On the official Magento blog, Lavelle wrote, “… we will enable every business to create and deliver compelling real-time experiences, engage with customers across every touchpoint, and transact anywhere across the entire customer journey for both B2C and B2B.”

Who are Adobe and Magento?

Adobe is one of the largest software companies in the world. The company has been diversifying beyond its hugely popular suite of applications, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and many others. It has now moved into digital advertising and CRM, with the only feature left out of its offering being ecommerce.

Magento provides an open-source software for building and running web stores, handling online transactions, shipping and returns. Canon, Burger King, Huawei and Rosetta Stone are Magento customers, and Coca-Cola, Warner Music Group, Nestlé and Cathay Pacific are joint customers with Adobe.

Magento has been ranked as the second best Ecommerce platform in Inc.’s 2018 list, with Shopify taking first place.

What Adobe Expects From the Transaction

As Adobe explains, “Consumers and businesses now expect every interaction to be shoppable — whether on the web, mobile, social, in-product or in-store.” With Magento’s platform, Adobe acquires a unified commerce platform with shopping experiences driven by a community of more than 300,000 developers.

Adobe will have digital commerce, order management and predictive intelligence for physical and digital goods across a range of industries.

The transaction is expected to close during the third quarter of Adobe’s 2018 fiscal year, and both companies will operate independently until then.

Image: Adobe

This article, “Adobe Acquisition of Magento Offers Potential Ecommerce Services for Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends


5 Books on Time Management for Small Business Owners

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

5 Time Management Systems for Small Business Owners

Time is money and that’s why you need to manage yours. Here are 5 books on time management for small business owners. They’ll help you with everything from outsourcing to avoiding being overwhelmed. 

Time Management Systems

Getting Things Done

If you’re a small business owner who’s looking to establish some order, the system presented in Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen, may be a good idea.

The book outlines a great time management system for sole proprietors or people with very small staffs. It’s a simple and straightforward way to collect things you need to do and organize them. Perhaps best of all is the fact that it’s concise and you only need some tools you probably already have like a filing system, a calendar and a inbox to get started.

The management system includes a number of steps from capturing the information you need, to categorizing and determining what the significance of that information is, and finally getting organized before acting on the information you’ve collected.

The Now Habit

The book, The Now Habit:  a Strategic Program for  Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt Free, by Neil Fiore involves a lot of self-help tips that can help you manage your time more effectively and be more productive.

It suggests some pretty modest but useful ideas on how to track your time. That makes it good for those business owners who just plow ahead without any real strategy and hope working harder and not necessarily smarter will solve all their problems.

It’s good for both small business owners and managers.   

The 4-Hour Workweek

Another great time management system is laid out in The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape from 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich Timothy Ferriss.

It emphasizes telecommuting and outsourcing and gives you the template for each to get the most from these tools. If you’re a small business owner that sells primarily on the Internet, or a sole proprietor who works there, you’ll find some solid ideas to make more of your time in this book.

Eat The Frog

If you’re the kind of business owner that’s always putting things off, you should take a look at Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy. This book teaches you a great method for identifying those tasks that you like the least and getting them done. Tracy even outlines how to keep technology from overwhelming you. He also gives you a simple formula to help get the important things done first and save time.

The 7 Minute Life

The 7 Minute Solution: Time Strategies to Prioritize, Organize & Simplify Your Life at Work & at Home. by Allyson Lewis, is great for small business owners who have a problem planning their day. The book challenges you to spend only seven minutes in the morning and seven minutes in the evening putting a business game plan together.

It includes a series of worksheets you can use and is great for business owners who don’t know what their future goals are.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “5 Books on Time Management for Small Business Owners” was first published on Small Business Trends