Small Business and Your Employees Health

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIH), more than 90 Americans die daily due to an overdose on Opioids. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this tragic epidemic is costing the American people  $78.5 billion a year which includes addiction treatment, health care, and the lost productivity these employees are costing the businesses in the United States.   For a small business owner, are you worried or experiencing difficulty with these situations? How are you coping? To read more about how small businesses in the United States are tackling these issues, follow the links below.


Small businesses forced to deal with drug epidemic

After a troubled youth himself, Phillip Cohen made it a practice to hire people at his woodworking business who have also struggled with addiction and mental health issues. But when an employee died from a drug overdose, he adopted a zero-tolerance policy.

“I think I have saved lives,” says the owner of Cohen Architectural Woodworking in St. James, Missouri — an area hit very hard by the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. Opioids range from prescription pain medicine like oxycodone to illegal drugs like heroin.

Cohen still hires former drug addicts, felons and people who have been traumatized in life. One person, now a top employee, was hired right after he finished drug rehabilitation. Another used to sell illegal drugs. Still, Cohen says, if a worker fails a periodic random drug or alcohol test, “we’ll fire them on the spot.”

The epidemic of drug use — a report from the surgeon general last year said that 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder — is forcing many small business owners to think about what they would do if they suspect an employee is abusing drugs or alcohol.


Health benefits vanish at small businesses

Only half of America’s smallest businesses now offer health coverage to their workers because many say steady cost hikes have made it too expensive to afford a benefit that nearly all large employers still provide.

The Kaiser Family Foundation said Tuesday only 50 percent of companies with three to 49 employees offered coverage this year. That’s down from 59 percent in 2012 and 66 percent more than a decade ago.

“There’s just not as much money around for compensation, including benefits,” said Gary Claxton, a Kaiser vice president and lead author of the nonprofit health policy organization’s annual health benefits study.

Employer-sponsored coverage is the most common form of health insurance in the U.S., covering an estimated 151 million people under age 65, according to Kaiser. The federal Affordable Care Act requires all companies with 50 or more full-time employees to offer it.


Quitter Talk: 5 Things That Are Stopping You and Your Small Business

Perseverance isn’t always a good thing. There are some situations where quitting is entirely appropriate, especially when you’re running a small business. Not everything needs to be a figurative fight to the death. Here are a few things that you should stop doing if you want to succeed:

  1. Procrastinating: Procrastination is the silent killer. Taking a few minutes out of your work day every now and then to take a look posts from your friends on social media seems harmless, but it could be costing you and your small business hours of productivity each week. Putting things off means delaying things that could be pushing your agenda. The sooner you stop procrastinating, the sooner you get important things done. I remember focusing on work for a little while and immediately getting distracted watching a YouTube video. This is a productivity killer — be careful.

 

Best Business Practices

For a small business owner, scaling a business can be a dream and a challenge.  Having the proper foundation can be rewarding and can prove to be an asset for your business. If you are thinking about  branching out, having a team around you can prove to be an incredible asset you cannot do without.  Having the team know the goals of the company and what is expected of them has been proven to be essential for the growth of any small business.  The accountability that is expected of every member of the team can impact the growth and profits of the company, make sure every member of your team knows the expectations and the accountability when working for your business.

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


Best Practices For Marketing Your Small Business On Twitter

Twitter has come a long way since its 2006 launch, becoming a top player for business marketing, where even small business owners can grow their presence using Twitter’s comprehensive strategies. Twitter for Businessexplains how small business owners can seize the potential of Twitter to build business influence and growth. Be smart and gain savvy knowledge through the Best Practices for B2B Marketers on Twitter e-book, as even small businesses should look to foster relationships through social media beyond the consumer level. Try these five best practices to begin marketing your small business on Twitter.

Keep it short and simple

It may seem distinctive to have a Twitter handle that stands out and is unique, but no one will remember an overly complicated handle with numbers or special characters, especially if it doesn’t define your businessor location. A short Twitter handle that’s a logical right fit makes your business easy to find.


The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Since the first email was sent in 1971, the medium has become the prime form of communication for most marketers.

Say what you want about social media or good old-fashioned sales calls – email as a marketing method has proven time and time again that it is simple, fast, affordable, and effective.

Though email marketing has been around for years, it has continued to evolve, with marketers looking for small tips & tricks they can use to boost their open and click-through rates.

Often, however, it’s best to go back to basics.

In this article, I’ll share with you the pillars of email marketing best practices, ranging from simple foundational advice to more technical tricks you can implement.


Best business practices from 7 leading businesswomen of today

The world of business has changed immensely. For the present generation, it’s not surprising to see their mothers take work trips, sleep off with the laptop’s light intensifying the stress lines on their face, or perhaps even miss birthdays and other celebrations. Is woman the new man? If she is, then is she the kind of man who was frowned upon barely a generation ago for being too left-brained? In the world of active feminism, it’s a tough question to ask, but one that must be raised nonetheless. The answer must be found objectively and individually. For now, let’s learn the definition of success, work-life balance, and more from some of the best female business leaders today.

On Work-life balance – Sheryl Sandberg, CEO | Facebook

“You know, there has never been a 24-hour period in five years when I have not responded to e-mail at Facebook. I am not saying it’s easy. I work long hours. I am saying that I was able to mould those hours around the needs of my family, and that matters. I really encourage other people at Facebook to mould hours around themselves too.”


 

Customer Service and Your Business

Customer service has been an important part in the success of any business in the United States and around the world.  An increase in technological advances has made it possible for companies  to do business not only across states , but across the globe as well.

Unless you are a local mom and pop shop servicing a small town or city, globalization for you doesn’t mean much, but for many businesses, expansion seems like an obtainable goal they are trying to achieve.

Doctors, dentists, optometrists and other types of small business rely very much on customer service.  They are facilities that are specialized and serviced their communities, and rely on giving excellent customer service. But are they?

The front of your practice or the front of your retail store are the first welcoming sights customers see as soon as they enter the premises.  Great customer service begins there and then.  Many small businesses forget how important those first moments are when customers enter the store or  their private business. 

In the retail industry, research has shown how important customer service is for the prevention of shoplifting.  For many other industries where services are provided, great customer service means keeping your current customers and adding some more.  As a doctor, optometrist, dentist or other health care provider, the front office is as important as the service the health care professional is providing.

Do you have a private practice? Have you checked lately how the people in the front office greet and interact with your customers? Is that something that as the owner you find acceptable?

The front office of your private practice is a small window into the care customers might be expecting when they visit your practice.  Loud, obnoxious, and tactless front office personnel cannot be an acceptable choice for your practice even if they are great at paperwork.  If you find yourself questioning whether the way the front office employees behave while doing their job is appropriate, it might be time to relegate them to the behind the scenes office.  You might find that even though,  you as a doctor are providing excellent care, customers are unwilling to come back to your practice.

Adding new customers to your current list means good business.  Are you adding them or loosing them?  Do you know the reason why you are losing them?

Providing excellent customer care every single day, and not only providing good service but making sure you go beyond what is expected, is one of the ways some businesses across the globe are thriving while the competition is shrinking.


   

Employee happiness and Business Success

Regardless of what you hear from Congress or any other politician in Washington, American workers are not the best in the world.  As a nation, we are lacking in skills ranging from math, and problem-solving to literacy. The study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, shows the American labor force is not only not comparable to other equal nations, but we are falling behind.  The skilled workforce needed to fill basic job positions is not longer there, and hasn’t been there for many years now.

Finding and keeping talented employees has become a struggle for many businesses, and the perks these businesses are willing to offer to entice talented people are a sign of the shortage of skilled employees.

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


Keeping employees happy a key to business success

Business owners may want to pay attention to more than how many widgets their employees are making.

They also should consider how happy those workers are while making them.

Experts – and a boatload of research – agree that satisfied employees tend to work harder and smarter, which in turn can boost a company’s bottom line.

“An engaged employee who feels valued and fulfilled is more likely to go all in and be far more productive,” said Evren Esen, director of workplace analytics for the Society for Human Resource Management.

“They also are more likely to stay with an organization longer, which reduces turnover costs,” she said.

That might sound like common sense. But finding out what makes an employee happy and then doing things to engage them is not an exact science.

Most workplace studies and surveys concentrate on two main areas: tangible gains, such as salary and health care benefits, and intangible bonuses, such as respect and job security.


Good businesses, even universities, invest in their employees

If higher education truly wishes to help solve the world’s complex problems, it is essential that all voices get a seat at the table, including those of graduate student workers. At Washington University, we need to do more to ensure graduate student workers don’t have to choose between academic success and personal well-being.

We are “privileged to be here,” we graduate student workers are so often told, and we shouldn’t question issues of compensation if we are truly passionate about the work we do. But as long as Washington University insists that we are students only, graduate student workers receive none of the protections afforded to employees under the law, even while we are compelled to remain in this tenuous position in order to complete our degrees.

While Washington U. is ostensibly committed to its role as a beacon of higher learning in the St. Louis community, it is in fact run as a business — and an incredibly lucrative one, at that. But good businesses invest in their employees. By promoting the well-being of the whole employee, Washington U. stands to benefit from higher graduation rates, better job placement, better academic and teaching work, and a healthier spirit of collaboration between students and their faculty advisers.


Family philosophy behind Marlex Pharmaceuticals’ success

Savar Patel, president of Marlex Pharmaceuticals, believes employees go the extra mile for him and his brother Samir because of loyalty.

That mindset stems from Samir and Savar’s father Amrish, Marlex’s founder, who the brothers say was an employee-centric boss who never wanted to treat people badly.

“We’ve just continued on with that philosophy,” Savar Patel said.

That philosophy has landed the New Castle-area-based packaging and distribution company on The News Journal’s list of Top Workplaces four years in a row.

Marlex Pharmaceuticals was ranked first among small businesses in The News Journal’s annual Top Workplaces survey conducted by WorkplaceDynamics of Exton, Pennsylvania.

The company engages in the distribution and packaging of pharmaceuticals. All products are made in the United States and distributed nationally, with access to every hospital, pharmacy and nursing home across the country.


 

The United States Unemployment Rate

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website gives you a clear idea of the United States unemployment rate in this country.  Certainly, it is the lowest unemployment rate for the last ten years in the United States and many economists predict the economy still has room to grow.

So, if employment is not an issue for many workers, what are some of the perks you can offer to attract and keep quality employees for your business?

Businesses across the globe understand that employees can make or break a business, which one do you want to be? What are some of the benefits you can include in hiring an employee for your business?

To read more about this and other stories, follow the links below.


The Smaller the Small Business, the Bigger the Insurance Discontent: J.D. Power

Not all small businesses are the same when it comes to customer satisfaction with their commercial insurance. There are actually widening satisfaction gaps among small businesses of different sizes, according to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Small Commercial Insurance Study.

The study found that the gaps in overall satisfaction among micro- (fewer than five employees) or smaller-size (five-10 employees) small businesses and larger-size (11-50) small businesses have never been wider. While there has been significant year-over-year improvement in overall satisfaction among customers in the larger-size group, there have been sharp declines in satisfaction among customers in both smaller-size groups.

“The small business market has been the best growth area for property and casualty insurance carriers in a stagnant, soft cycle marketplace,” said Greg Hoeg, vice president of U.S. insurance operations at J.D. Power. “Our data shows that the small commercial market is still ripe for competition. While looking at the small business market in aggregate shows relatively steady levels of customer satisfaction year over year, the serious gap between very small businesses and larger small businesses could present an opportunity for those carriers that get the small business formula just right.”


What Kind Of Small Business Employees Do You Need To Grow Your Company?

Many small businesses benefit from hiring employees. At some point, you may decide that you need more hands on deck at your company. When that time comes, you might not know where to start. You want individuals who will make a difference in business operations. What kind of small business employees do you need to grow your company?

Knowing what to look for in a candidate is not as easy as it might seem. After 30 years in entrepreneurship, I’ll be the first to admit that looking for employees to hire can be tough. When hiring an employee, you need to know what characteristics to look for.

What Kind Of Small Business Employees Do You Need To Grow Your Company?

There are many different types of employees in a business. Companies have leaders, followers, go-getters, and employees who do the bare minimum.

You will have employees who struggle from time-to-time or lose motivation. Highs and lows are inevitable in life. But with the right attributes, your employees will use their skills to grow your company.

Whether you’re hiring your first employee or ready to give a pep talk to your current workforce, consider the following characteristics.


 

Small Business and The Market Place

Depending on what news outlet you read or watch, you are going to learn how the economy is booming or businesses are disappearing. The fact is that small business owners in the United States face many challenges through out the lives of their business.  The many challenges they face spring from government legislation or economic changes they have to face every year. This week many small business owners that sell through Amazon learned that the items they sell will be “automatically authorized” for return.  Unlike big companies that can offset this return policy change, many small business owners are thinking differently.

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


Amazon’s new refunds policy will ‘crush’ small businesses, outraged sellers say

Amazon sellers are up in arms over a new returns policy that will make it easier for consumers to send back items at the merchant’s expense.

Marketplace sellers who ship products from their home, garage or warehouse — rather than using Amazon’s facilities — were told this week by email that starting Oct. 2, items they sell will be “automatically authorized” for return.

That means a buyer will no longer need to contact the seller before sending an item back, and the merchant won’t have the opportunity to communicate with the customer. If a consumer is returning an electronic device because it’s difficult to use, for example, the seller won’t be able to offer help before being forced to pay a refund.


Ransomware attacks hit small businesses the hardest

It’s just one of the grim findings in Malwarebytes’ new ransomware report.

If it seems like reports of ransomware attacks — malicious software that holds data hostage unless a ransom is paid to the person or organization behind it — are increasing, Malwarebytes agrees with you. The company released its Second Annual State of Ransomware Report recently. Among the findings is that 22 percent of small business that were hit with ransomware attacks were crippled to the point they had to cease operations immediately.

It’s a somewhat staggering figure, but it makes sense once you think about it; large corporations often have the resources to work around (or, let’s be real, pay off) these types of attacks. Small businesses, especially ones that rely on day-to-day operations to function, can’t cope in the same way. “To make matters worse, most of them lack the confidence in their ability to stop an attack, despite significant investments in defensive technologies,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, in the press release. The survey also found that small business owners and operators are less likely to pay a ransomware demand.


Survey: Small business optimism reaches highest point in a decade

Small business optimism continues to climb in the third quarter as business owners said they are the most optimistic in more than a decade, according to findings from the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, conducted July 10–14.

In the quarterly survey, which measures the optimism of small business owners, the overall Index score jumped to 106 in July – an 11-point increase from 95 in April and the highest since 113 in April 2007. The increase in optimism was driven by several factors, including:

  • Strong financial situation – Seventy-six percent said their current financial situation is very good or somewhat good, up from 73 percent in April.
  • Healthy revenues – For the second quarter in a row, almost half (46 percent) said their business’s revenue increased over the past 12 months, up from 41 percent a year ago.
  • Ease of obtaining credit – Nearly half of small business owners (48 percent) said credit will be somewhat easy or very easy to obtain over the next 12 months.
  • More hiring – Twenty-one percent said the number of jobs at their company increased over the past 12 months, up from 19 percent in April.

 

Ohio Small Business News

For small business owners, tax breaks come as a way to help them stay afloat, and in some other  circumstances to use that money to invest it in their business. 

With Ohio’s legislative leaders appointing a panel to take a serious look into the state’s tax breaks, we wonder whether they will look into the tax breaks granted to special interest groups only, or whether this action will cause the small business owner to be left out.

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


Small Business Cybersecurity Insurance Is Vital, House Panel Told

The nascent cybersecurity insurance market can play an important role for smaller businesses, which remain a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals, witnesses and congressmen said at a House Small Business Committee hearing July 26.

Larger corporations have already begun to learn to shift and mitigate cybersecurity risks through insurance, but smaller companies need to get on board, they said. Companies should also follow federal cybersecurity guidance and understand that they must control cybersecurity risks when acting as third-party vendors to larger companies, witnesses said.

Large-scale cyberattacks, such as Petya and WannaCry, made larger companies take note of the need for insurance, witnesses and lawmakers said at the hearing.


Home is where the heart is

There’s no place like home.

That’s the theme of this piece on VentureBeat.com written by Cleveland native Robert Hatta, a partner at Columbus-based VC firm Drive Capital. The headline: “Why Midwesterners leave Silicon Valley and go home for better opportunities.”

He begins with a focus on Travis McCleery, who earlier this year left Netflix, where he led interactive product design, to move back to Columbus to lead product design for Root, an insurance company that uses data collected from drivers’ smartphones to more fairly price and sell auto insurance.

From the piece:

When Root first contacted him, he was skeptical. He left Columbus for a reason, after all. “In Silicon Valley, everyone is trying to invent the future – it’s in the DNA,” he told me “You’re surrounded with all of these brilliant, driven people. It’s hard to resist the call. I just couldn’t find that here in Columbus a few years ago.”

His first questions were about the quality of the team and the size of its ambition, and what he learned convinced him that it was time to return. “Here’s this super-scrappy, talented team trying to completely disrupt the $200 billion auto insurance industry. And they weren’t messing around. They had built an impressive technology platform in a short time.” So he moved his young family back to Columbus.


Editorial: Time to look at those tax breaks

Ohio’s legislative leaders have finally appointed members to a special panel that is supposed to take a critical look at the many state tax breaks granted to special interests. That would be a lot more encouraging if they hadn’t so obviously been avoiding it.

Ohio’s legislative leaders have finally appointed members to a special panel that is supposed to take a critical look at the many state tax breaks granted to special interests. That would be a lot more encouraging if they hadn’t so obviously been avoiding it.

Ohio’s tax credits, deductions and exemptions divert about $9 billion from the treasury every year. Some no doubt serve a worthy purpose, but just as surely many others are unjustified giveaways to powerful interest groups or well-meant ideas that don’t actually work.


Small Business and The Senate’s Health Care Bill

As a small business owner, do you offer health insurance to your employees?  Many businesses do not offer health insurance for their employees, and small business owners specially feel the pinch when offering health care coverage to them.  The Senate Health Care  Bill-if it passes-would alleviate some of the burden these small businesses feel, keeping in mind though that some other people would have to pick up the tab for it.

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


Senate’s Health Bill Would Make Life Easier For Some Small Businesses

Some small-business owners burdened with high health care costs would get a break via an obscure provision in the health bill proposed by the GOP Senate. The provision would offer less regulation, more bargaining power and better prices.

But those benefits could come at a cost to others.

The clause, included in the proposal advanced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last month, would exempt insurance policies sold through “associations” from most Affordable Care Act mandates and state regulations. To be able to offer these plans to their employees, small businesses join an association, which may be loosely based on certain types of professional, trade or interest groups that offers insurance to members.


New Senate Healthcare Bill Slams Small Business Owners And Savers

Senate Republicans today released version 2.0 of their Obamacare “repeal and replace” bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).

This version of BCRA is a major lurch to the Left from the original BCRA and conservatives supporting this process have some things to think about.

A Tax Hike on Small Businesses and Savers

The major departure from the original BCRA is that v2.0 fails to repeal the 3.8 percentage point Obamacare surtax on capital gains, dividends, and other savings (the “net investment income tax,” or NIIT). It also fails to repeal the 3.8 percentage point tax bracket for the self-employment tax and the payroll tax ostensibly earmarked for Medicare

In failing to do so, v2.0 of BCRA raises taxes by over $230 billion over a decade relative to v1.0 of BCRA.


US small-business optimism dips in June, remains near high

A gauge of U.S. small-business confidence fell in June as business owners expressed frustration over gridlock in Washington, according to a National Federation of Independent Business report released on Tuesday.

The group’s Index of Small Business Optimism fell to 103.6 last month from 104.5 in May, although it remains near its highest level in more than a decade. The index surged following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president last November, and in January hit its highest level since December 2004.

The rise was largely attributed to business owners’ optimism surrounding Trump’s promises of deregulation, tax breaks and infrastructure spending.

But Congress’ inability to deliver on those promises has muted confidence as business operators grow wary of political infighting over the health-care reform legislation, and prospects for tax reform are uncertain.


 

Ohio Small Business News

According to The Ohio Department of Taxation, Small Business tax breaks introduced back in 2013 by Gov. John Kasich is costing the state close to a billion dollars in 2015, and is expected to be much higher for 2016.  Talks to repeal the tax break are underway, with Governor Kasich pushing back against repealing it.

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


Ohio Democrats: State should end small business tax break to generate $1.1 billion a year

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Senate Democrats on Thursday pitched their idea to patch the $1 billion state budget hole — eliminate Ohio’s small business tax break.

Repealing the business income tax deduction, phased in since 2013, would generate $2.2 billion over the next two years, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission.

Democrats said the money would cover the expected revenue shortfall without making cuts and leave another $1 billion to spend on education, health care, local governments, libraries and Ohio’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis.

“Some people will tell you there’s not enough money to go around, but our real problem right now is irresponsible tax policy,” Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko of Richmond Heights said at a news conference.

Specifically, Democrats would spend the additional $1 billion on the following over two years:


Kasich Pushes Back Against Repealing Small Business Tax Cut

An income tax break for Ohio’s small businesses in recent years is under fire from Democrats and some Republicans. They say the current budget situation shows it’s time to end that tax cut.

Governor John Kasich is firmly rejecting those suggestions.

Recently, state lawmakers in Kansas ended that state’s tax break for small businesses, saying it didn’t create jobs and cost the state too much money. A similar tax break is costing Ohio more than a billion dollars, but Kasich says he’s not for ending it.

“To raise taxes? Nah, we don’t raise taxes in this state,” Kasich said.

Kasich says the case in Kansas is different because that state didn’t cut spending at the same time the tax breaks were enacted, and he says Ohio did.

Ohio’s revenues $841 million short of projections for this fiscal year.


Small businesses in clean energy sector still hope for best

NEW YORK: Small-business owners who install solar panels or help customers use clean energy don’t seem fazed by President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, saying they expect demand for their services will still keep growing.

They’re confident in two trends they see: A growing awareness and concern about the environment, and a desire by consumers and businesses to lower their energy costs.

“It’s an economic decision people are making, although it also makes environmental sense,” says Suvi Sharma, CEO of Solaria, a Fremont, Calif.-based company that designs and sells solar energy panel systems.

Trump said he was putting U.S. interests ahead of international priorities in leaving the agreement that would, among other things, require the United States and other countries to report greenhouse gas emissions. The United States is the world’s second-biggest emitter of carbon after China, and carbon is one of the gases that scientists cite as a key factor in global warming.


 

Small Business Lending

Looking for a new small business loan?  How about Free business tools for your business?

According to new reports, the loan approval rate has increased this last past month to an all time high.  Which means, it’s a good time for you to apply for that new business loan you were hoping to get. 

Looking for new ways to grow your business?  There are twenty business tools for free you should be using if you want to grow your business.  From shopping carts to accounting apps, these free business tools can make your business a bit less difficult.

To read more, follow the links below.


Small Business Lending at Big Banks is On the Rebound, Says Biz2Credit

Loan approval rates at big banks rebounded after a setback month, the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index has revealed.

Biz2Credit Lending Index April 2017

Big Banks, Small Banks and Institutional Lenders Give Businesses a Reason to Cheer

According to the newly published report, loan approval rates at big banks grew by two-tenths of a percent to a new all-time index high of 24.3 percent. This marked recovery from last month’s stagnant percentage, which ended a seven-month streak of increases.

Rohit Arora, Biz2Credit CEO said, “Recent interest rate hikes and the Fed’s announcement that it will start unwinding the $4.5 trillion in bonds on its balance sheets signals a strong economy. Since most small business loans are tied to U.S. prime interest rates, there will be more incentives for banks to approve loan requests as lending in this sector will be more profitable.”


Billionaire Richard Branson reveals his best tips for making great business decisions

If Richard Branson is your dream mentor, you’re in luck — the billionaire entrepreneur just revealed some of his best tips for making business decisions.

Everyone knows how important first impressions are when meeting someone — in fact the subconscious decisions people make within a tenth of a second are so strong that often contradictory facts can’t change them. But you have to fight the urge to rely first impressions when it comes to business decisions, says Branson. “You mustn’t allow that first reaction to influence your ability to objectively weigh the cons as well as all the pros when they are presented,” he advises.

Branson also suggests uncovering an idea or project’s “hidden warts.” They’re there, he assures, because nothing is perfect. You want to know about them early in the decision-making process while you still have the time and ability to deal with the issues. According to Branson, more learning is almost always better, just don’t get into “‘paralysis by analysis’ mode,” he says. At some point you have to decide, “screw it, let’s do it,” as he’s famous for saying.


20 Free Tools Your Small Business Should Be Using Today

Software doesn’t have to be expensive for small to midsize businesses. To help you celebrate National Small Business Week, here are 20 free tools to get your SMB up and running.

Although your small business needs a healthy amount of software to conduct operations, it’s not necessary for you to spend a fortune on web-based products. In our comprehensive testing of business and consumer software, we’ve come across dozens of incredible and free solutions that can help you get the job done. We’ve tested free tools in almost all facets of business — from email marketing to endpoint protection to project management.

To help you celebrate National Small Business Week this week, we’ve compiled this list of 20 free tools that your small business should be using. Fortunately for you, all of the software listed below offer premium versions to which you can upgrade once your business grows. So don’t shy away from the products on this list under the false assumption that you will eventually scale out of this category.