Small Business Optimism and Security

Many small businesses and big corporations are at risk of cyber attacks daily.  Companies like Target that spend millions of dollars on cyber insurance and other security measures, do not spend enough to make the cybersecurity risks less probable.

For small businesses that do not have the finances to spend protecting themselves against cyber attacks, the risks are always present.  And although cyber attacks may not be directed against them quite as often, protecting the personal and financial information of their clients should be one of the primary priorities of any business.

For more about this and other topics, follow the links below.

A Decline In Small Business Optimism

On Tuesday, NFIB reported the September Small Business Optimism Index results, and they showed the Index fell 2.3 points to 103, which was below the lowest consensus forecast. In spite of the decline, the index remains at a high level, as can be seen in the below chart.

A larger percentage of the index components declined in September as the report noted:

“Six of the 10 Index components dropped in September. Three improved, and one remained unchanged. The bright spot last month was inventory plans, which gained five points as more business owners anticipate a strong 4th quarter.”

Below is a table showing the component changes from August.

Half of All Small Businesses Use WiFi Technology Almost a Decade Old

Small businesses are using older WiFi that doesn’t fit their needs on several fronts. A new Linksys sponsored survey says half of the small businesses polled are using WiFi technology that’s over eight years old. Beyond not being able to keep up with mobile expansion, business owners are concerned over the lags in security and speed.

Problems with Small Businesses Using Old WiFi Tech

These findings are important to small businesses still using older WiFi technology. Smaller enterprises that work online need to be both flexible and fast to respond to changing client needs. Your download and upload speeds are the flux to beat the competition to sales. Beyond that, they make for quicker networking with everyone from visitors to mobile employees.

House approves bill to bolster small business cybersecurity

The House on Wednesday approved legislation that would require the federal government to produce and disseminate guidance to help small businesses with cybersecurity.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, passed by a voice vote.

The legislation would require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a nonregulatory standards laboratory housed in the Commerce Department, to produce cybersecurity resources for small businesses.

NIST produces and updates cybersecurity guidance for the public and private sectors that businesses can choose to use. President Trump signed an executive order on cybersecurity earlier this year ordering federal agencies to abide by the NIST framework.


Small Business Lending

According to the FDIC website, as of September 30, 2016 there were 5,170 FDIC insured commercial banks. They gave a total of 8,544 loans as of the third quarter of 2016.  You might think that with so many banks, and loans given every year to business, there would be a surplus of loans for the small business owner.  That is not always the case. Some small businesses have a lot of  trouble getting a small business loan, even though news around the country claim small business borrowing is increasing.

For more about this and other news, follow the links below.


13 top U.S. microlenders for your small business

What is a microloan, and is one right for your small business?

If you’re a small-business owner on a quest for capital, there are several smart reasons to turn to nonprofit microlenders. These lenders go beyond making small loans to entrepreneurs and provide some benefits that traditional lenders don’t:

Profit is not their objective. Many microlenders are called mission-focused or mission-based lenders. They offer loans from government or nonprofit programs geared to helping disadvantaged communities, including areas that are struggling economically. Some microlenders also operate internationally, helping entrepreneurs in developing nations.

Many microlenders and nonprofits provide pro bono consulting and training, including helping small businesses build credit.

US small business borrowing rises as Trump elected president

Borrowing by small U.S. firms ticked up in November, data released on Thursday showed, as Americans unexpectedly elected Republican Donald Trump as their next president and investors bid up U.S. stocks on bets that tax cuts will boost profits.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index rose to 129.9 in November from a downwardly revised 119.8 in October. Measured from a year earlier, it was the first increase in six months. Movements in the index typically correspond with movements in gross domestic product growth a quarter or two ahead.

“Right now we’ve got this post-election bounce, because we know who will be in office,” said Bill Phelan, PayNet’s chief executive and founder. “Is this going to continue into a new era of growth or no? That’s unclear.”

Small Business Health Reimbursement Accounts Resurrected For 2017

Stand-alone HRAs are back for 2017. Employers don’t have to wait for the repeal of Obamacare to fund stand-alone health reimbursement accountsthat employees can use to pay for medical expenses, including health insurance coverage on the individual market. Tucked into the year-end 21stCentury Cures Act, Congress resurrected these HRAs (“qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements”) for employers with fewer than 50 employees.

“I’ve been contacting small employer clients, telling them, ‘It looks like we can bring your plan back to life,’” says Amy Gordon, an employee benefits lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago. “This was an unexpected surprise.”

Stand-alone HRAs were banned under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) because they didn’t meet credible coverage rules (HRAs tied to high-deductible health plans and limited HRAs which cover retiree medical expenses or just dental and vision weren’t banned and are still viable). Employers had to freeze stand-alone HRAs and not make any more contributions to them.


Productivity In The Workplace


There are many factors that affect the profitability of a firm.  For managers and directors of firms, one of the most important factors is to increase profitability for their stakeholders.  The income a company earns over a fiscal year must exceed the expenses they incurred.  Profitability is then one of the many reasons management tries to increase the productivity of their workforce.  Productivity in the workplace is a major challenge for many companies, and research over the years have shown that happy employees are more productive than non happy or stressed employees. But how about working remotely? How is the productivity level compared to those working at the office?  For more about this, follow the links below.

Study: Whopping 93% Say They’re More Productive Working Remotely

Catherine Conlan’s spent her fair share of time in offices. These days, though, the rural Minnesota writer clocks in from home to a content marketing agency in Baton Rouge, La. Still, many of the work-life balance challenges are the same.

“There are days where I’m still rushing around to pick up the kids or the laundry just doesn’t get done, because I’ve put a priority on my work productivity,” Conlan says. “But working remotely, especially with an employer who embraces a project- or results-based approach to work and is dedicated to supporting employees’ lives away from work, can make finding a sense balance a lot easier.”

Boosting America’s Workplace Productivity

Here’s the plain truth: whether at home or at work, productivity tends to suffer under stress. And while stress triggers are highly personal, one thing many workers seem to have in common is uncertainty around how to handle personal finances. In fact, according to a recent study commissioned by MassMutuali, while most Americans say they prioritize understanding the importance of their personal finances, many admit they actually know little or nothing about them, and half say they don’t know how much to spend on benefits. Worse, 37 percent of those surveyed find managing their personal finances “somewhat” or “very difficult” and 40 percent say personal financial problems are a distraction at workii.

It’s clear from the research that personal finances bedevil many Americans, especially when it comes to understanding and making the most of their employee benefits. And employee stress doesn’t just affect employees – the prevalence of distracted employees in the workplace poses a huge productivity issue for employers that, if left untreated, will likely become worse.

Productive mobility is poised to give business a virtual boost

Throughout history, new technologies have constantly changed the way we’ve worked. They’ve been responsible for full-scale revolutions. And continued investments have come as corporate demand for worker productivity drives tech spending.

We should expect augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to eventually attract increased spending in the enterprise as they combine with new mobile network advancements to make an emerging trend called “productive mobility” a reality.

Productive mobility is about being as productive out of the office as inside, and as productive in a virtual instance as a physical one.

Consider Boeing’s use of augmented reality glasses to streamline plane assembly workflows, decreasing assembly time and reducing errors by 25 percent. This is amazing. It’s also just the beginning of this reality-transforming workplace future.

That’s where critical mobile network developments come in. Many of the most exciting AR applications require instant environmental interpretation, and rapid delivery of contextually relevant information and functionality. VR, in particular 360 stereoscopic video, greatly raises the payload overhead of rich media.

Fixed and mobile broadband network advancements like fiber and 5G, along with service provider-centric content delivery topologies, deliver higher throughput with lower latencies. New convolutional network designs find patterns among previously insurmountable massive data sets, enabling rapid, intelligent predictions about the network, the things connected to it and the users engaging with it.


Small Business Saturday


This last Saturday (Nov. 28) was the event small businesses look forward to every single year.  Or is it just hype? Many marketers fail to see whether Small Business Saturday does anything to a small business or not.  Yes, there are figures out there that say small businesses do benefit from this event of the year, but cannot tell you where those figures come from. Whether you shop locally and try to do business with the small shop in your city, the question to ask is whether one day a year will make a big difference in the life of the small business owner. For more about this topic follow the links below.

It’s Naive for Small Business to Expect Much From Small Business Saturday

Join us at Entrepreneur magazine’s Growth Conference, Dec. 15 in Long Beach, Calif. for a day of fresh ideas, business mentoring and networking. Register here for exclusive pricing, available only for a limited time.

Can you feel it? The building anticipation for what seems to be the small business event of the year. I’m talking, of course, about next weekend’s Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28). Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, this is the day that all of America is supposed to be honoring small businesses. It’s our moment. We’re hanging signs and putting out the displays. “Support us!” we demand to our communities. “We’re small businesses!”

Really? Are we that naïve? Do you really think that Small Business Saturday means anything to your customers? Do you really believe articles like this one that report that there were “88 million Small Business Saturday shoppers in 2014” and that they “spent $14.3 billion.” Oh c’mon…where does this data come from? And how many of these shoppers would’ve been out shopping during that first unofficial weekend of the holiday season anyway? Do you think this was because of Small Business Saturday? Believe me…it’s not. But don’t tell that to some.

How Congress could give small businesses a bigger incentive to invest in growth

Under current law, small businesses can expense only $25,000 in capital expenditures this year, a level far below the $500,000 Section 179 expensing limit that went into effect in 2003.

Congress is likely to remedy that problem in December, just like it did last year, when it retroactively raised the Section 179 expensing limit for 2014 to $500,000 on Dec. 19. That left small businesses 12 days to buy eligible equipment and put it into service in order to take advantage of this tax break. This short window sharply reduced the impact of this tax incentive for small businesses to invest in growth.

How to Secure Your Small Business With Big Business Protection

Layer Your Security

The challenge: Network attacks are becoming more widespread, intelligent and difficult to detect, leaving SMBs at an even greater risk due to limited resources and budgets to fend off threats. Network entry points are not the only publicly-facing attack surfaces; employee devices also may be compromised by users outside of the corporate security perimeter. The solution: A layered network security approach brings a new level of scrutiny to network traffic moving into a SMB, making network protection more complete and manageable.
Small businesses face exactly the same security threats as large organizations. However, they also must contend with the perennial challenge of limited budgets for IT expenditures. The job of administering the network in a small business often falls on the business owner or on the default in-house techie, both of whom wear many other hats in the organization and usually do not have the time, resources or expertise to work on complex deployments and administration. Often small businesses think that enterprise-grade protection is beyond their means.

4 Ways to Increase the Bottom Line

donk1-300x266The majority of small businesses fail because they aren’t able to generate enough operating capital, they simply run out of money.  But, there are ways to prevent this.  The lack or loss of money is overwhelmingly caused by internal problems.  Contrary to most owners’ beliefs, external forces are responsible for just a fraction of small business failures.

Companies run out of money because the owners won’t or don’t know how to address their structural and operational problems.  Commonly, the actual causes of the typical business’s collapse can be traced to 4 problem areas.  Therefore, if addressed in a timely manner, profit and profit margins can be increased when the problems are identified and fixed.

Key to an efficient operation is putting the right person in the right job.  It’s vital to accurately assess employees’ skills, everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  This is especially true in small businesses where family and friends are often in jobs they aren’t suited for.  Putting people in positions they’re not trained to do or just aren’t capable of doing affects the bottom line. 

Lack of accountability – for owners (who usually don’t hold themselves accountable for their actions), managers and workers – is an enormous problem in workplaces.  This area all by itself can financially affect a business to the point of closing.  Employees, owners and managers must be accountable for their responsibilities and behaviors. 

Another area that directly affects profitability is lack of or poor internal and external communication.  Billions of dollars have been lost simply because somebody didn’t pass on important information, talk over a problem, speak up with a concern or listen enough.  Prioritizing effective communication, at all levels, is a smart fix.

The final area, improve production efficiency, is a no-brainer.  Some of the benefits include: it’s cheaper to produce the product, requires less rework, increased customer satisfaction, is easier to sell, generates referrals and decreased waste. All of which contributes to increased earnings.

These are 4 main ways a company can increase its bottom line.  If a small business owner is willing to learn some new skills, and consistently apply them, the monetary and non-monetary rewards (i.e. time off, happier employees, secure future, increased quality of life) are well worth it. 

Small Business Growth And the Top Scams of 2014

Customer Relationship Management business chart on a digital tabDuring the holidays, scams are rampant and catch people unawares, but scams are truly present throughout the whole year and that is why you have to be aware of them. Businesses and individuals alike fall victims to these vile scams and tactics from these individuals, protecting yourself and learning of these tactics can help you avoid them altogether. Follow the links below for more news about small business.

Better Business Bureau’s top 10 scams of 2014

The Houston Better Business Bureau has tallied up the statistics from 2014 and created a Top 10 Scams list. Here’s a heads-up to what scams consumers can expect to see again in 2015.

The BBB’s Top 10 Scams of 2014

Microsoft/computer scams
A caller claims to be from Microsoft or a representative from another computer software company. The caller offers to solve a computer problem or sell a software license in an effort to gain remote control of the consumer’s computer, and later requests a fee for service. Always check out a company first and only hire trusted repair businesses. Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls for computer help.

IRS scams
People report receiving calls from “IRS representatives” who claim they owe taxes and must pay or a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Or, they claim the IRS is pursuing a lawsuit against you and you must make a payment immediately. The IRS never uses phone calls for collection purposes. Instead, they only contact taxpayers via U.S. mail.

Small-business transactions hit a record in 2014

A report by shows that small-business transactions in 2014 were at the highest level since the online business-for-sale marketplace started tracking data in 2007.

The report aggregates statistics from business-to-sale transactions reported by participating business brokers nationwide.

A total of 7,494 closed transactions were reported in 2014, an increase of 6 percent from 2013, which was the previous record.

This marks the second straight year of such strong activity after several slow years during and immediately following the recession. On average, 2013 and 2014 transaction totals are up 55 percent from the recession and recovery period from 2010 through 2012.

Managing business growth: expert advice for small businesses

Although cash is undoubtedly king, fast growth can wreak havoc on a fledgling business if not managed correctly. When you’re expanding faster than you’re being paid, hiring staff, finding an office and managing stock can take on added difficulty. We held a live Q&A on the topic of managing growth, with advice from a panel of experts. From chasing payments to deciding when to hire, here’s what they suggested:
How can I push a client to pay without losing them?
Late payments cause havoc with an SME’s bottom line. However while encouraging a client to pay, you don’t want to shut the door in their face forever.

Technology can help you here, says Ashley Driver, education specialist at Xero. “There are some great services available to help chase your clients, for example Chaser. We’re seeing some great results from our business owners, accountants and bookkeepers using these types of solutions.”

Another suggestion is to implement a small percentage rise in your product or service, suggests Robert Rutherford, chief executive officer of QuoStar. “If you feel the rise is justified then often you have to stick to your guns,” he adds. “You can also re-contract a set rate or capped rate for the duration of the contract.”

Business Keys to Success and Other News

business (7)From January to August 2014 the unemployment rate was been slowly but surely decreasing.  February and March unemployment rate was 6.7% and last confirmed rate was August with a 6.1% unemployment rate. While economists believe the US economy is getting over the bump and jobs are added every month, there is skepticism over how well over the bump we really are.

ADP: Small Businesses Add 88,000 Jobs in September

Small business hiring picked up slightly in September, according to private payroll processor ADP.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees added 88,000 jobs last month, up from 82,000 in August. Small businesses created 41% of all new jobs in the private sector in September, with 213,000 total jobs added.

“September’s jobs added number marks the sixth straight month of employment gains above 200,000,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP.
“It’s a positive sign for the economy to see the 200,000-plus trend continue.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which helps prepare the ADP report, added that gains across all company sizes and industries is especially encouraging news for the economy.

Small businesses should focus on five keys to success 

What do small-business owners need to pay attention to this fall? Heath care, Internet security and new technology make the list. Here are five things that small businesses need to be on top of over the next several months:

HEALTH CARE: Small-business owners who bought employee health insurance policies before the end of 2013, sidestepping the law’s requirements for a year, could pay between 10 percent and 20 percent more when it’s time to renew, says Michael Stahl, chief marketing officer of HealthMarkets Inc., a broker based in North Richland Hills, Texas. They’ll also have to decide on plans. Policies issued under the law have significant changes including the requirement that pre-existing conditions be covered. Some owners may decide it’s better if workers purchase their own government-subsidized coverage on health insurance exchanges.

Companies whose coverage took effect Jan. 1 of this year and complied with the law could see increases between 5 percent and 10 percent for 2015, Stahl says. Not all small-business owners will have to make these decisions this year. Employers with 50 to 99 workers have until 2016. Companies with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.

Google AdWords Secrets: What Works for Small Business

Launching an AdWords campaign is one of the most effective ways to grow a small business. Whether you are trying to get the word out about your business or have a special event or sale to promote, launching ads on Google can mean big business in little time.

The Google Display Network (GDN) reaches the majority of U.S.-based Internet users — a whopping 80 percent — giving AdWords advertisers the widest reach possible. Although this is definitely a good thing, it does come with some disadvantages. Because AdWords casts such a wide net for advertisers, launching an effective AdWords campaign requires a finely tuned strategy to reach the right customers and get a better return on investment (ROI).

Launching an AdWords campaign is one of the most effective ways to grow a small business. Whether you are trying to get the word out about your business or have a special event or sale to promote, launching ads on Google can mean big business in little time.

The Google Display Network (GDN) reaches the majority of U.S.-based Internet users — a whopping 80 percent — giving AdWords advertisers the widest reach possible. Although this is definitely a good thing, it does come with some disadvantages. Because AdWords casts such a wide net for advertisers, launching an effective AdWords campaign requires a finely tuned strategy to reach the right customers and get a better return on investment (ROI).

Small Business Lending And Other News

business (6)According to the United States Small business Administration $3.5 billion were invested in small businesses in 2013 alone.  Although the Small Business Administration does not provide the investment directly to businesses, it partners with private investors that manage the funds that finance small businesses.  One of the banks that is leading the way in providing loans to small businesses in Ohio is Huntington National Bank, with a 46% increase from last year.  For this and other news follow the links below for more information.

Huntington Bank on track to become nation’s largest small-business lender, but profits dip in first quarter

CLEVELAND, Ohio — After several years at No. 3, Huntington Bank is on track to become the No. 1 small-business lender in the United States.

Through the first six months of the federal fiscal year, Huntington has the greatest number of SBA loans. This is especially interesting because Huntington is the nation’s 33rd largest bank by assets and it does SBA loans only in the six states where it has branches: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Huntington has catapulted to No. 1 because its SBA lending has increased by about 20 percent, while lending at other banks has fallen, Craig Street, head of SBA lending for Huntington, said in an interview.

In the Cleveland district, Huntington’s lending has soared even more, with a 46 percent boost. Huntington made 396 loans for $38.2 million in the six months ending March 31, 2013, and 580 loans for $54.7 million for the six months ending March 31, 2014.

Small Business Administration, AARP can help business owners older than 50

Are you older than 50 and looking for your next career? New research shows that one in four people ages 44 to 70 are interested in starting their own business or nonprofit in the next five to 10 years.

Did you know you aren’t alone? There are 76 million people older than 50 in the United States. That’s why the U.S. Small Business Administration and AARP are teaming up in April to host National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Month.

Together we will provide events to help connect encore entrepreneurs with mentors, such as those from SBA’s network of Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and SCORE chapters who can help with strategies to grow an entrepreneur’s business.

We know that kind of training can be critical for the success of a small business. It can help folks bring their experience, knowledge and skills to a new venture, and that can create exciting new opportunities and jobs.

BigCommerce Increases Reach Into Small Business Commerce

BigCommerce is known for the big brands that are using it to get eCommerce sites up and running quickly. Clients include Gibson Guitar, YETI Coolers and many others.

But the company says that BigCommerce isn’t exclusively for major national brands. Small businesses can and should be taking advantage of what the eCommerce platform can offer.

In an interview with Small Business Trends, BigCommerce CPO Westley Stringfellow said:

“The reality is BigCommerce is built for business, large or small. Our vision is to power small business. Our role is to amplify the merchant.”

If your business is in the market for an eCommerce platform, BigCommerce appears to be a powerful option to consider. Having your own store online can help you to build your brand and break free from other services like eBay or Amazon.

Stringfellow says:

“It’s very clear that as we grow, merchants want to have their own presence. They want to grow their brand. It’s hard to do that on eBay.”

BigCommerce users have access to dozens of store design templates, many of them free, as well as hundreds of apps to help you manage your store. Many of these apps are also free.

Why Do I Need a Business Coach?

business (4)Why Do I Need a Business Coach?

 A good business coach can add a wealth of knowledge and experience without the need to give up equity in your company or pay someone a senior executive’s salary and benefits. Considering all that a business owner can learn from a business coach… a very high value exists for a low cost. However, obtaining the right business coach for the unique needs of your business can sometimes be a bit more challenging than randomly selecting someone from online listings or the phone book.

So what do you look for?….

Remember business coaching is an investment in your business. Here are a few benchmarks to consider when you are considering investing in a coach.

1 – Experience Your Industry

This is perhaps the easiest of questions to answer. While industry experience is valuable, remember that you are working “ON” your business. You are the industry expert! If you’re looking for manufacturing line redesign or process changes to the production line, you should be looking for a consultant who specifically does that type of work.  A business coach will help you to build value and systemize your business.

Online research is also helpful when deciding on a business coach to help you with your business.
Look over the business coach’s portfolio of past and present clients. Check the success of those companies. Walk into a few and ask about things that you like and dislike.

2 – Methodology and Business Philosophy

Are you investing in a coach whose philosophy you can see yourself emulating in the years ahead? Moreover, does this business philosophy connect with your long-term business goals?

Although no business coach should have to describe in detail his entire methodology in a preliminary interview, a business owner should not be afraid to ask general questions about how a coach expects to help achieve results for the company. The coach’s answers should be in line with the long-term goals of your company and your personal aspirations.

3 – Longevity

Is this person someone that you can see consulting with for a long period of time? Business coaching is a long-term investment. You need someone that you can communicate with on an open and honest basis. They must be able to explain things to you in terms that you can understand.