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Lots of entrepreneurs are hesitant to take vacations because they’re always so concerned with running their businesses. But what if you could take a vacation while also learning valuable insights from other professionals and networking with like-minded individuals.

That’s what the upcoming Entrepreneurs Cruise can offer. The event takes place from April 22-29, leaving from Florida and cruising to destinations like St. Maarten and Puerto Rico.

For those interested, you can learn more about the event, including how to sign up, in the Featured Events section.

And that’s not the only upcoming event that could benefit your small business. Check out even more opportunities in the list below.

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

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

WEBINAR: 5 Trends that Will Drive Your Profitability and Growth in 2018
January 24, 2018, Online

Customer habits and perceptions are rapidly evolving as new technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things go mainstream. New opportunities are opening up – but at the same time businesses of all sizes are under intense pressure to meet changing customer expectations. In...

It takes a lot of hard work to effectively market a small business. But you don’t have to do it all on your own. It helps to have a fully stocked marketing toolkit full of apps, platforms and strategies. Here are 10 suggestions from members of the online small business community for tools and concepts to add to your marketing toolkit.

Check Out These Insanely Effective Chrome Extensions for Marketers

Marketing help can come in unlikely places — even in your web browser. If you use Chrome, there are plenty of extensions to make your online marketing tasks easier. Asi Dayan points out some of them in a recent post on

Attract Local Customers with Google Maps

Google has plenty of outlets that can benefit your marketing efforts. But one that can sometimes get overlooked is Maps. In a recent post on the Abtech Blog, Amit Chauhan offers some tips for using Google Maps to attract customers in your local community.

Make Use of WhatsApp Business Profiles

Popular chat app WhatsApp just launched new profiles specifically for businesses. This means that your company could now better utilize this type of technology to communicate with customers. Tim Peterson elaborates in a recent Marketing Land post.

Learn from This Guide to Buyer Personas

If you...

UPS Capital, a subsidiary of UPS (NYSE: UPS), has announced it will expand its finance offering for in-transit cargo for U.S. importers. The new options will increase the amount businesses can borrow from 70 percent to 100 percent of the supplier’s invoice. Repayment terms are also being changed, with importers having 90 days instead of 75 to repay the loan.

UPS Capital Cargo Finance Expansion Helps Manage Cash Flow

Cash flow and having access to capital are the biggest challenges small businesses face. Waiting for outstanding invoices to be paid can cripple a small business. UPS Capital’s enhanced lending services are designed to help small business importers manage cash flow more effectively by having vital access to capital.

As Jose Aguayo, UPS Capital Payment Solutions Product Manager, said in a press statement about the extended financial services for small business importers:

“The financial success of a business is largely attributed to its ability to manage its working capital needs. Our UPS Capital Cargo Finance service is a great tool to raise cash.”

With the UPS Capital Cargo Finance service, importers who have been pre-approved for a loan are able to borrow unsecured credit lines from $30,000...

The ZenBook 13 and X507 notebooks were just announced by ASUS, further expanding the company’s growing line of laptops addressing virtually every use case.

New ASUS 2018 Laptops

These all-in-one notebooks are configured with a long battery life and high-performance specs, which ASUS says is ideal for daily computing and entertainment. The ZenBook looks like it is going after the MacBook crowd, while the X507 is a bulkier version with seventh generation Intel processor and larger screen.

For small businesses, freelancers and individuals looking for powerful portable machines, the ZenBook and X507 have the necessary specs to deliver. But you will have to wait until the company announces what it will cost you to see if they are worth the price.

The ZenBook

Everything about this ZenBook suggests it was designed to compete with Apple’s flagship portable computer, and it has the features to give the MacBook a run for its money. The new notebook is light at 985 grams or 2.17 pounds, and it comes with either eighth-generation quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. The RAM can be ratcheted up to 16GB, and the storage can also go all the way to 1TB PCIe of solid-state drive (SSD).


The proposed new postage rates by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) are going to be implemented on Sunday, January 21, 2018.

The USPS filed a notice to increase the price of mail services with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) in October 2017, with the implementation slated for January 2018. Come Sunday, regular mail, as well as shipping services, will be affected by the price hike.

The cost of shipping has become a significant expenditure since the arrival of online commerce. For many small businesses looking to compete with large companies offering free shipping, even the slightest increase will hurt the bottom line.

When the USPS announced the increase, it said Mailing Services product prices would go up by around 1.9 percent, and most Shipping Services products would see an average increase of 3.9 percent. Domestic and international shipping products will also see an increase, including Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail and Parcel Select.

Sunday, January 21, 2018 USPS Postage Rate Changes

Starting on Sunday, First-Class Mail letters up to one ounce will increase from $0.49 to $0.50. The price for each additional ounce will remain at 21 cents. Metered letters and domestic postcards will go up by one cent from 46 to 47 cents...

The gig economy is changing the way small businesses hire. And it has also led to more people making a career out of freelancing and contracting. Previously, tax season was complicated both for contractors and the small businesses that hire them. But a new Intuit tool aims to change all that.

In addition, the recent Trump tax plan could make a major impact on small business finances going forward. And Small Business Trends sat down with a CPA to better understand some of the nuances.

See both of those articles along with other small business headlines below in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Taxes Intuit Tool Helps Freelancers and Contractors File 1099 Forms

Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU) today unveiled a series of new features for QuickBooks aimed at helping small businesses that work with freelancers and independent contractors. And it can potentially make life easier for those contractors as well.

How Xero’s Ryan Himmel Explains the Impact of Trump’s Tax Plan on Small Businesses

The recent passage of the Republican tax bill could lead to big changes for small businesses. But some entrepreneurs are still unsure exactly which parts of the bill might have the biggest impact. So a financial professional could potentially shed some light on the specifics. Ryan Himmel is a...

It’s been way too long since my last conversation with SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin for this series.

CRM Technology Trends

But with artificial intelligence, smart speakers, blockchain and  so many technologies capturing our collective attention, I was happy to catch up with Larry to ask him how CRM/customer engagement will be impacted by any or all of these areas.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.  To hear the full interview, check out the video or Soundcloud embedded player below.

* * * * *

Brent Leary: The behavioral changes that have come from Alexa, people ask it questions throughout the day. They can be anywhere in their house. Have it play music, have it set up a to do list.

Now you’re seeing things like, it actually starting to affect business applications and at CES, what the big take away for me was, the battle between Google and Amazon for “voice supremacy”, for lack of a better way of putting it.

What’s driving this and what are the implications for CRM and customer engagement?

Larry Augustin: First of all I think it’s an incredible time to be involved...

With almost 40 percent of the U.S. workforce identifying themselves as freelancers, working remotely from home is an employment practice no employer can afford to ignore.

For employers, having teams work remotely from home comes with challenges, as well as many benefits. One of the biggest challenges employers of remote teams face is how to keep remote workers motivated.

How to Motivate Remote Employees

Business Backer has compiled an interesting infographic on ways to motivate employees who work remotely.

Create A Social Space for Teams to Integrate

According to renowned management author, Patrick Lencioni, one of the leading dysfunctions of remote teams is a lack of trust. Business Backer’s infographic advises employers to create a social space designed for teams to share personal news and get to know each other. A short 5 to 10-minute chat at the start of a remote meeting can be an effective way to heighten trust amongst remote teams.

Provide Professional Development Opportunities

A staggering 76 percent of millennials believe professional development is amongst the most important things an organization can offer.

Your workers might be remote but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide them with the chance to go on professional training courses.

Don’t Time-Track, Productivity-Track Instead

Religiously tracking time can make remote teams feel untrusted and like they’re being watched. According to the infographic, giving workers the flexibility and freedom to complete tasks when they wish can be up to 35...

One in six Americans (16 percent) now own a voice-activated smart speaker, up 128 percent from January 2017. Out of the rising number of people who own a smart speaker, 31 percent said they use it for shopping purposes, adding items to their cart so they can review them later for purchase.

Findings come from the Smart Audio Report, Fall/Winter 2017, which analyzed smart speaker ownership data from NPR and Edison Research. The study also found that 29 percent of smart speaker owners used their device to research an item they may want to purchase. A total of 22 percent used the speaker to re-order an item they have previously purchased. The same number of people ordered a new product with their smart speaker that they had not previously purchased.

Implications of Rise in Smart Speaker Ownership

The fact that a growing number of consumers are using smart speakers when shopping online is interesting for small businesses partnering with the likes of Amazon and Google. As consumers are using smart speakers to spend more time shopping online, researching items, re-ordering products and ordering new products, these innovative devices could prove advantageous to small businesses...

Online fraud attempts in the U.S. during the 2017 holiday shopping season increased by 22 percent. The insight comes from new ACI Worldwide benchmark data gathered from top U.S. merchants.

Online Fraud During the 2017 Holiday Season

The report reveals fraud attempts were highest on Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve and and Dec. 21 –the all-important cutoff day for getting items express shipped in time for the holiday.

The 22 percent jump coincides with a 19 percent increase in overall transactions during the holiday shopping season. Higher volumes mean more opportunities for criminals to take advantage of the pressures of the moment.

Pressures affect companies of all sizes, but for small businesses operating in the digital and physical world, the impact of fraud can be more detrimental. As more sales come from digital channels, owners must implement security solutions to mitigate fraud attempts from succeeding.

“The consistent, alarming uptick in fraudulent activity on key dates is a signal that merchants must be proactive in their efforts to identify weak points across the omnichannel payment process — and define the short- and long-term strategies necessary to improve security and enhance customer experience, “ said Erika Dietrich, Director of Risk Management at ACI Worldwide, in a press...

My kids hate commercials.

I mean, I hated them growing up, but there was no escape so you just put up with them. But my kids HATE commercials.

I think they’re so used to any and all content available on-demand when, where and how they want it, mostly ad-free, that when they have to put up with advertising they get really frustrated.

So one day my daughter was ranting about a local hardware commercial that kept interrupting her Hulu cooking show (I won’t spring for the no-commercial option) and the idea of inserting a commercial into another everyday setting occurred to me and this cartoon popped out.

I don’t know if this is what’s coming, but if it is, it’s going to drive my kids bananas.

Side note — I just noticed that the cat I drew on the Kitty Winks bag is, in fact, not winking. Sorry.

This article, "The Company’s New Revenue Generating Strategy Took Unexpected Forms" was first published on Small Business Trends

Restaurants are under increasing pressure from minimum wage hikes to pay workers more and pass off costs in higher prices for customers, Fox Business reports.

Eighteen states raised their minimum wage at the start of the year, forcing thousands of restaurants to adapt to rising labor costs. However, patrons will only absorb so much of the cost.

“When we increase in prices … we see guest count go down,” “Restaurant Stakeout” host and CEO of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse Willie Degel told FOX Business. “The consumer is not willing to pay for the experience then.”

Minimum Wage Hikes Hitting Restaurants

Degel predicted a dark future for the restaurant industry if labor costs keep increasing.

“I think you’re going to see thousands of restaurants close their doors,” Willie Degel told FOX Business. “Fine dining is going to go by the wayside.”

Some restaurants are downsizing staff to keep their doors open. Red Robin announced last week that it will cut all busboy positions from its 570 stores nationwide. The chain hopes to save $8 million to help pay for the minimum wage hikes that hit many states where the chain operates, The New York Post reports.

Wages and benefits are ramping up across most...

The seventh Creative Trends Report by Shutterstock (NYSE: SSTK) is forecasting 11 styles which it says will be influencing design and visual production in 2018. Fantasy, New Minimalism, and Space are the top three styles this year.

Image Design Trends for 2018

These 11 styles were determined based on the analysis of billions of customer searches, local favorites and some of the major trends throughout 2017. This includes search of images, videos, and music by advertising, film, and media industries. Shutterstock believes this, in turn, will influence the creative direction and design aesthetics for the year.

Having the right image, music, and video for today’s small businesses can determine how their customers engage with them. With websites, social media and apps now part of the marketing strategies for businesses, the content on these platforms must be chosen carefully. The Shutterstock report will give you a heads-up as to what styles will best resonate with your customers.

The 11 Styles

In addition to Fantasy, New Minimalism, and Space, the remaining eight styles are made up of: Natural Luxury, Punchy Pastels, A Global March, Cactus, Digital Crafts, Ancient Geometrics, Cryptocurrency, Holographic Foil, and Trends Around the World.

In the field of Fantasy, terms such as unicorn saw a 297...

The new Verifone (NYSE: PAY) e280 mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solution looks like a smartphone and it is just as portable. However for retailers, it means being able to accept payments in different locations throughout the store as well as outside of it.

At just 4.5″ long and 2.5″ wide, the e280 has a 3.5″ color touchscreen for capturing the signature of your customers and on-screen interaction for secure PIN entry. Connectivity includes WiFi, Bluetooth BLE and USB-C so it can communicate with other devices and peripherals.

Small retailers can expect to see less and less foot traffic coming through their doors if their checkout process is not optimized. This is because as consumers shop more and more online, they expect the same level of efficiency when they are in a brick-and-mortar outlet.

The good news is, there are solutions in the marketplace small businesses can use to make checkouts as painless as possible for their customers.

In a press release announcing the new device, Glen Robson, executive vice president and Global Head of Solutions for Verifone, explained, “Retail is greatly influenced by consumer behaviors and experience, and merchants are looking for technology that is adaptable to changing consumer expectations while complying with...

There’s a good chance that your employees aren’t very happy with your business’s processes, according to a just-released study from Nintex, a workflow and content automation company. And that perception could cause many of them to seek employment elsewhere.

The Relationship Between Business Processes and Employee Morale

The study, called the “Definitive Guide to America’s Most Broken Processes,” found that about a third of employees at U.S. businesses with at least 1,000 employees are looking for new jobs. And 86 percent of workers cited their employers’ broken processes as an important factor behind their decisions. Overall, 67 percent of employees believe that their employers’ broken processes prevent them from reaching their full potential.

More specifically, the types of processes that employees are likely to perceive as broken include tech troubleshooting, access to tools and documents that help with job performance, performance reviews, promotions and employee onboarding.

While those particular findings come from employees of larger businesses, it can still offer some valuable insights to small business owners. Small and large businesses alike can have broken processes. If your employees are forced to wait forever to get IT help or spend all day doing mindless busy work that doesn’t utilize their skills or advance their careers in any way, it can...

The acquisition of Unata by Instacart will bring together two companies who are transforming online grocery shopping — and create plenty of opportunities for contractors in the gig economy and small independent grocers.

Benefits of Acquisition of Unata by Instacart

Instacart, a grocery delivery service mobilizing independent personal shoppers, will incorporate Unata’s 1-to-1 eCommerce, eCircular and eLoyalty experiences to create a comprehensive digital grocery experience on one platform. With these two digital solutions, grocery stores across the country, both large and small, can compete with national chains.

For independent grocers, this means being able to offer products digitally without the heavy cost of development and implementation of their own system. According to Instacart, the union will create a one-stop shop for brick-and-mortar retailers so they can compete with grocery stores that are increasingly operating in an online world.

In addressing the need to support the entire segment of grocery retailers, Chris Bryson, CEO of Unata, said in a press release, “By combining the power of our teams and technologies, we can achieve this vision faster and for the first time ever offer a fully comprehensive, configurable digital solution for grocery retailers of all sizes.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed in...

The new campaign builder from MailChimp has been improved to give you more flexibility so you can address each point of the campaign when you are ready.

Unlike the step-by-step process of the past, the new check-off system allows for improved collaboration and the flexibility to go to different parts of the campaign at any given time. The upgrade also has additional options for sharing on social media.

Using email as part of your overall business marketing is a good strategy. Because when it comes to receiving regular updates and promotions from companies they are interested in doing business with, 60 percent of respondents in a survey chose email as the most preferred communication method. The numbers get even better when you optimize your emails for mobile devices.

The New MailChimp Campaign Builder Improvements

When you start creating an email campaign, the flow of ideas will not come in order. This is important to remember because the old system assumed they did.

On the company blog, MailChimp product manager Michaela Moore writes, “As we started expanding into other channels, we found that the linear process for building an email wasn’t the best design for new features like Facebook and Google...

A business card is a piece of your company’s direct marketing plan. It typically includes a person’s name, phone number, email address, website and company. While the exchange of business cards might seem outdated in today’s digital world, it is still almost a ritual. People feel more intimately connected with a business and its representatives when they engage in eye contact and actually exchange physical cards. Sending contact information via email or text is convenient, but it is also extremely impersonal.

If you haven’t got a card that you can hand out to fellow business people, prospective clients and collaborators, you’re missing out on a key marketing opportunity. However, not all business cards are created equal. A bad business card is actually worse than no card at all.

A Bad Business Card Is Worse than No Business Card

According to data from Statistic Brain Research Institute, 72 percent of people judge a company or person based on the quality of their business cards. And 39 percent of people would choose not to do business with a company if they had a “cheap looking” business card.

You, therefore, want your small business card to stand out without being too different. More...

In 2018 thousands of small businesses will purchase Customer Relationship Manager software. Many of these will be young startups acquiring their first piece of sales technology while others will be in the midst of a digital transformation. No matter what your background may be, if you haven’t paid attention to CRMs in the last few years, you can expect to be overwhelmed with the number of new tools and features as well as diverging philosophies about what makes a CRM relevant in today’s economy.

Of course, the temptation is to follow the crowd and buy into Salesforce, but not everyone is looking for a cookie cutter solution. Today, CRM options abound, all of them offering an array of partner integrations, artificial intelligence and a fluid customer experience. So what do you need to know to cut through the noise and what can you expect from the best CRMs in 2018?

2018 CRM Software Trends

Let’s consider three of the most talked about and least understood aspects of sales technology: artificial intelligence, ease of use and vendor types.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Every CRM advertises their AI as a central piece of their technology and will claim that it revolutionizes the sales process. The challenge is understanding...

The standard business pitch presentation is so… yawn.

Think about it. How much do you enjoy sitting through slide after slide of numbers, figures and plans etched out in painstaking detail?

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re getting rejected by investors, there’s a decent possibility it’s because your pitch sucks.

I shared an infographic from Guy Kawasaki a while ago in which he laid out a complete startup pitch in just ten slides. It was amazing — just ten simple slides can get right to the heart of the matter and tell your startup’s story in a compelling way, without boring investors to tears.

This week, I came across another genius format for startup pitches that capitalizes on the fact that most people are visual learners.

Turning your pitch into a video lets you tell your startup story in less time, with the tone of your voice and facial expression there to keep your potential funders’ interest.

Experts predict that by next year, 75 percent of ALL online traffic will be video! You can’t ignore its power.

There are other genius ways to use video in your startup, of course. This new infographic walks...