Small Business News
As an entrepreneur, you have to learn to stay calm and focused on the roller coaster of running a business.
With a tight schedule for an iPhone app launch, timing is a major stress for Lori Cheek.
Because she isn't a coder, Lori Cheek can't always fix web issues at the pace she would like.
Lori Cheek never stops working, not even in the middle of a push-up session.
There are pros and cons when your personality is a central part of your business's brand.
Lori Cheek learned the hard way that it's not possible to start a business alone or with the wrong people.
When it comes to your website, you need to regularly check that everything is working properly.
From websites to printed materials, it's important to consistently use the right look for your business.
While most dating sites start from technology and move to real life, Lori Cheek believes in the opposite.
The idea for Cheek'd originated with an offer for dinner.
If you're constantly checking your email, you may miss great opportunities that are right in front of you.
Lori Cheek has found that, as a woman, she stands out at tech events--but at least the bathroom line is always short.
Small businesses are feeling the brunt of a harsh winter and a frozen hiring environment.
For many businesses, the first two months of the year felt like a bit of a whirlwind. After feeling a sense of optimism going into 2014, they've been battered by an unrelenting winter and hiring has dropped, according to the February 2014 SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard®.
The Scorecard survey found that one in three small businesses experienced a slowdown due to severe weather, creating a bit of a “hiring vortex." On the plus side, optimism among small business owners remains relatively high at 69 percent, which could bode well for a spring thaw.
The lack of hiring goes deeper than the inclement weather, of course. As many as 60 percent of small business owners said the cost of salary and wages is still a barrier to hiring. And one in three said they haven't been able to find qualified candidates.
Of future concern is that only three in five do not have a disaster plan in place, according to the February survey. The devastating winter storms were a stark reminder that the office is not always accessible. Forces out of your control can and will make it difficult to do business.
As small businesses, even a short interruption in business can have a significant impact on cash flow, Last month, 55 percent of small business owners told us they don’t have extra cash on hand for unforeseen events.
With this in mind, it’s a good time to develop a “disaster” plan for your small business, especially if you don’t have one. Remember, a disaster for your business doesn’t mean the world is ending, but a polar vortex, or a hurricane, or a flood, or a snowstorm can easily keep you from finishing a crucial project for a client.
Here's how to prepare for the worst:Draft a plan.
This plan should not be sitting in a drawer at your office, it should be universally available to everyone. The cell phone numbers for your employees and contact info for clients should be readily accessible. Are they? All the processes that need to take place to keep the business up and running have to be accounted for - are they? Whether you have two employees or 50, everyone should be prepared and able to take appropriate action to do their jobs when something out of the ordinary occurs.Take advantage of the Cloud.
It’s simply too easy in the world of Dropbox and Google Drive, and other file sharing services, to not have the necessary documents and information available online. Is it the day you’re supposed to run payroll? Do you have to be in the office to do that? You shouldn’t. Your employees are not going to want to hear they didn’t get paid on time because of snow. Make sure you can run payroll from anywhere, including your smartphone.Don’t be out of pocket.
You can’t make it to an important meeting with a client because the roads aren’t drivable? Use GoToMeeting or set up a Google Hangout, or Skype with them. Your phones are down and customers can’t get through? Tweet them the latest information as you receive it. An employee needs a signature on an important contract? You don’t need to be there with your favorite fountain pen. Use a service like Sertifi, and call it a day.
Small businesses have been in a holding pattern for some time when it comes to hiring. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take action to make your business more malleable. If fact, now is the time to be even more vigilant about planning. After all, it’s one thing you can control.
The number of seed venture capital rounds hit a four-year high last year.
Startups made raising seed funding last year look easy-- that is, of course relatively speaking. In 2013, venture capital firms took part in 843 deals. This compares with just 309 total deals in 2010. The data come from CB Insights, a venture capital database.
Statistics company Statista created the infographic below to help visualize the increase in deals over the past few years.
The bankruptcy of Mt. Gox, the world's largest Bitcoin exchange, has increased calls for new rules governing the virtual currency.
In the picture above, Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles apologizes for losing all his customers' bitcoins during a press conference Friday in Tokyo, Japan.
Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy on Friday. The move intensified calls for regulation of Bitcoin, Reuters reports, which could have a profound impact on companies that accept the digital currency and startups building Bitcoin businesses.
Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles said during a press conference in Tokyo that the exchange, which was the largest in the world, has most likely lost more than $450 million worth of its own and customers' bitcoins, according to The New York Times. The exchange suspended withdrawals on February 7 and its website features only a letter from Karpeles asking customers to wait for its issues to be resolved.
A document leaked to the media from Mt. Gox said that 744,408 bitcoins, accounting for about 6 percent of the 12.4 million bitcoins currently in circulation, went "missing" due to series of cyberattacks, Reuters reports. Entrepreneurs, investors, and members of the Bitcoin Foundation say that Mt. Gox's troubles are due to poor management and software problems, not the Bitcoin protocol itself.
The exchange's bankruptcy has ignited debates over the need for more regulation of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. Jiro Aichi, Japan's vice finance minister, said new regulation should be an international effort in order to avoid any loopholes, Reuters reports.
On Thursday, U.S. Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen told the Senate Banking Committee the Fed has no jurisdiction over Bitcoin. Yellen suggested Congress should start talks about how to further regulate Bitcoin and other virtual currencies.
Many Bitcoin users, investors, and entrepreneurs believe that over-regulation will end up killing innovation and only serve to make Bitcoin startups move out of the U.S.
Fred Wilson, the co-founder of venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, wrote in a blog post Thursday that officials should not overreact to Mt. Gox's bankruptcy: "When something as new and as different as Bitcoin emerges, it is tempting to want to 'put the genie back into the bottle' and protect ourselves from it. But thankfully the U.S. did not do that with the Internet."
A French architect's audacious plans for a ship that will change the ocean exploration is done.
Garnering comparisons to Star Trek's starship Enterprise, the SeaOrbiter is the brainchild of French architect Jacques Rougerie. Set to begin construction this spring, the 190-foot-tall semisubmersible vessel will be the culmination of nearly 30 years of Rougerie's research and development.
Six of the SeaOrbiter's 12 floors are below sea level, allowing for uninterrupted underwater observation. Although the ship's main mission is to research the biodiversity and climate of the sea, the real goal for Rougerie is to give the public a better understanding of how crucial the ocean is to Earth's well-being.
Ninety-nine percent of the $50 million project was financed through the French government and private companies. To get people more involved, Rougerie is crowdfunding the last 1 percent of the project. "The more humans understand about the underwater world, the more respect they will have for it," he says.
22 People: Number the SeaOrbiter can host. The ship will carry a mix of scientists and crew members.
Quite a View: 'We want people to appropriate the project to themselves," says Rougerie. Which is why he raised money through KissKissBankBank, a French crowdsourcing website, to fund construction of the Eye of the SeaOrbiter. Equivalent to a ship's crow's nest, the Eye towers 60 feet above the surface. It serves as a lookout and houses a communications system that lets the crew send live broadcasts of life on board.
Hard at Work: Keeping busy won't be a problem for the crew. The "modular lab" can be used as a laboratory for scientists as well as a fitness room equipped with treadmills. The lab also includes a medical zone. A certified doctor with basic surgery skills will be on board in the event of an emergency.
2,600 Tons Displacement: The overall weight of the ship. It is built from 500 tons of Sealium, a recyclable aluminum designed for marine environments.
A Life Aquatic: Given that voyages will last three to six months, there will be ample time to collect data and perform experiments. The underwater area, known as the hyperbaric lab, is equipped with an observation deck made of transparent polycarbonate panels, allowing for direct underwater observation. Because the conditions underwater are similar to those in space in terms of pressure and isolation, the SeaOrbiter will be used by NASA and ESA (the European equivalent) for protocol training as well as physiological and psychological experiments.
Go With the Flow: The SeaOrbiter was designed primarily to float along with the ocean's natural currents, allowing scientists to study the relationship between those currents and climate. The keel weighs 180 tons and helps provide stability to the ship. It can be retracted when the vessel is in shallow water.
5 Ships: The total number of SeaOrbiters Rougerie eventually hopes to build, one to sail in each of Earth's oceans. A number of partners have given their support to the SeaOrbiter project, including National Geographic and UNESCO.
A few reasons why veterans make excellent entrepreneurs.
Does military experience translate to leadership and business savvy?
A glance at today's most successful corporations would suggest that it does. Many of the biggest names in the business world - Verizon's Lowell McAdam, FedEx CEO Frederick Smith, former General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson - have military backgrounds.
In 2005, a comprehensive study of S&P 500 CEOs by Korn/Ferry International found that more than 8% of top execs were ex-military officers, which is nearly triple the 3% of U.S. men who serve as officers.
What does the military teach that helps these ex-officers climb to the top of major corporations? We combed through interviews with many of them to find out the biggest lessons about life, business, and leadership they learned from the service:Always look sharp.
Years out of service, FedEx CEO Frederick Smith still keeps up the tidy appearance he learned in the Marines. "Even in a blue pin-striped suit, I still make sure that the right-hand edge of my belt buckle lines up with my shirt front and trouser fly," he's said. "I shine my own shoes, and I feel uncomfortable if they aren't polished."Take good care of your people.
Former General Motors chairman and CEO Daniel Akerson says military service taught him to lead by example and "to take good care of your people."Assemble diverse teams to get a range of perspectives.
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, a former captain in the U.S. Army, says military training taught him the value of working with diverse teams. "I quickly discovered no one had a lock on the right answers," he told DiversityInc.Invest in relationships for the long term.
The relationships formed in the military are "lifelong" and "serve you well in a business career," says Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who served in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps.Be willing to listen to everyone.
Michael Morris, the former CEO of American Electric Power, has said that the military developed his "willingness to listen and formulate an opinion that incorporates as many people's ideas as possible."Stay calm under pressure.
Morris also likes to compare a CEO to a pilot in bad weather -; it's up to him to keep his cool through a storm so his passengers (or shareholders and employees) stay calm. "The last thing you want is to appear to be rattled," he says.Act decisively even with limited information.
David Morken, CEO of Internet and phone services company Bandwidth, learned to "operate in the fog and to execute and decisively engage when you don't have access to a complete data set" from his time in the Marine Corps.Carefully plan out the logistics.
Robert Myers, CEO of Casey's General Store, says his time in the Army made him a perfect choice later to run the company. The company's founder figured no one was more qualified to head up a distribution chain than a former military logistics officer, CSPnet.com reports.Lead with integrity.
"Veterans have special abilities and common traits, including discipline, maturity, adaptability, and dedication," John Luke Jr., CEO of MeadWestvaco and a former Air Force pilot, has said. "They operate with integrity and high ethical standards in all that they do."Be, know, and do everything you ask of those below you.
"When I was attending the Drill Sergeant Academy, I was taught to always 'Be, Know, Do,' when dealing with subordinates," former U.S. Army Drill Sergeant and Argo Marketing Group CEO Jason Levesque tells Business Insider. "Be the expert; know the job; do the difficult [tasks]. Your subordinates will follow you and, best of all, try to emulate you."Give 100% of your effort.
Robert McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, explains that his time in the infantry convinced him to always commit to something 100%. "If you're going to be in the Army, go into the infantry," he says. "If you're going to be in marketing, work for P&G. You don't do things halfway."
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Are you one to sit back quietly? You may be hurting yourself and others. Here are five good reasons to speak your mind loudly and often.
The art of communication is not mastered by just knowing what to say and how to say it.
A big factor is knowing when to say it. So often people sit back and say nothing when something really needs to be said. It could be an idea, a suggestion, an observation, a criticism...but for some reason they don't want to speak up.
They may be afraid of hurting another person, looking mean or foolish, or opening a can of worms that will make a mess in everyone's lives. Sometimes it seems like staying silent is the wiser choice. But here are five reasons why despite the risk, standing up and saying your peace is best.
1. Silence is deemed approval. You may think that staying silent keeps you from being involved in any conflict, but quite the opposite. Silence is as much an active form of communication as talking. Anytime you are involved in a situation, people are aware of all the input and lack of it. If you disapprove and don't say anything it will not make you seem easy going. If the problem persists and you did nothing people may consider it as enabling and think the issue is as much your fault as the person who actually caused the problem. You may destroy trust and create resentment. People rarely thank you for withholding information down the line.
2. The greater good should be the priority. I like to believe most people are good hearted by nature. And many stay silent because they don't want to do any harm by offending or criticizing someone. But when a person or the team is headed down a dangerous path it's selfish to put your own need to be comfortable above the needs of the others. Worse, by staying silent, you may be harming the very people you hope to help. The worst case scenario if you speak up is that someone may disagree, but at least the issue is at the forefront and an active decision can be made. The best case scenario is that everyone benefits and you are hailed as a powerful leader.
3. Demonstrate you are invested. Why are you in the conversation in the first place? Someone invited you into the dynamic. If you truly don't have a stake then find a better use of your time. But if you are there for a reason you need to show your commitment to the process and the people involved by being active and vocal. Speaking up is an important form of honesty. Honesty actually builds trust, especially when combined with tact and empathy. Demonstrate that you will be truthful with people, that you care about them, and that you give good advice, and you will never lack for trusting friends and followers.
4. No one else may know. You can't assume the obvious is obvious. Your experience and knowledge has value in a given situation. No one else has your unique perspective. That doesn't mean that everything in your brain is worth communicating, but with a little discretion and thought, you should be able to bring value in most situations. And your piece of the puzzle may be the most important finisher. You're also not doing yourself any favors by not sharing your expertise. People don't automatically recognize your skills, values, ambitions, and desires when you are quiet. If you wait around for people to notice or read your mind, you will likely end up on many paths that are not of your own choosing. You may end up with projects you don't want, missing promotions you do, or accepting tasks you don't have time or ability to complete. Gather up your confidence and share.
5. You may not be alone in your thinking. It's entirely possible that your insightful observations and conclusions have surfaced in the minds of others. Others may share your thoughts and opinions, but may be also unwilling to speak up. By speaking your mind you encourage them to voice their opinions as well. If everyone holds back, the bus may silently head over a cliff. In my organization we believe so strongly that everything should be voiced in some manner that we have a core value of Bring It Up. We would sooner celebrate somebody saying something irrelevant and unimportant than lose ground or have massive failure due to group silence.
Like this post? If so, sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.
From must-download apps to PreCheck security clearance, there is plenty to take advantage of when taking to the skies.
As the head of a large travel management company, someone prone to bouts of wanderlust, I consider myself a knowledgeable and savvy traveler.
From Chicago or LA for work, to the Caribbean for a romantic getaway with my wife, I rack up my fair share of frequent flyer miles and keep up with industry trends. And with my frequent attendance at airline industry meetings and conferences, I've become somewhat of an expert on airline industry trends and ways to plan the best business trip possible.
It can be tough to navigate through the waters of airline mergers and the like. As someone in the know, I want to share some of my insights and tips:Put all of your eggs in one basket.
The major airlines aren't the only entities that should be consolidating. You should be, too. With newly merged airlines offering flight paths to every corner of the globe, it's no longer necessary to travel on different airlines to reach all of your destinations. Prices for popular routes may vary slightly by carrier, but by concentrating your purchasing power on one or two airlines, you'll be able to maximize your ROI.
From frequent flyer miles that turn into free trips, to complimentary upgrades and access to swanky airport lounges, loyalty for air travelers is handsomely rewarded. A $50 difference in a flight can be more than forgotten when your preferred airline bumps you to first class for a trip from Reagan National to LAX.
So why not do a little research, see which airlines are preferred by your organization, select a carrier or two, enroll in their rewards program and see what happens? You'll save time by not having to research and compare fares for every business trip you take, and in the end you'll see money back in your own pocket."There's an app for that."
There are thousands of mobile travel apps that have been designed to make traveling easy. There are airline apps that allow you to check-in, print your boarding pass, and monitor flights. There are apps that offer the five-day weather forecast at your destination. If you can conceive of an app that would lighten your load when traveling, it most likely exists. When preparing for a trip, I recommend daring to dream about what would make a perfect trip for you. Chances are, as the old iPhone 3G commercials used to say,
"There's an app for that." You should be using it. (As an aside, some of my favorite apps include Delta and American's mobile apps as well as Sabre's TripCase)Get a PreCheck.
There's no reason that any frequent business traveler shouldn't have both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. TSA PreCheck provides expedited screening benefits to domestic frequent travelers while Global Entry offers the same benefits for those traveling internationally and domestically. When you get Global Entry you are automatically granted PreCheck status. These two programs require a little up front effort to register but could shave off many hours from your door-to-door travel time. I'd rather spend time with my friends and family than in a 45-minute long security line, wouldn't you?Ask for help.
Travel agents (or "angels" as I'd like to call them) know the ins-and-outs of airline flight schedules, are well-versed in securing amenities like upgrades or preferred seats, and are able to find discounts that might not be visible to the average traveler. When in doubt, asking for help and having a backup plan will always pay off. Your backup plan might be as simple as programming American Airlines' customer service number into your phone or having the email address of a travel agent your company uses in your address book. All I know is that the ease of asking for help, and being assisted when you're in a jam, is often times immeasurable, particularly with the kind of winter we have been experiencing on the East Coast.
What you need to to know to make the sale and not bust your budget.
This year’s Toy Industry Association annual Toy Fair in New York City attracted over 30,000 people, 1,200 companies and 13,000 buyers from across the globe, making it the largest toy industry trade show in the western hemisphere.
It can all be incredibly overwhelming for a small business.
After six years of attending the New York Toy Fair with my company, Wild Creations, I have learned that preparation alone makes the difference between a wildly successful show experience and a relentlessly stressful and unrewarding budget buster. Here are ten lessons (that I learned the hard way) to make it all worthwhile.1. Be picky.
There are thousands of trade shows every year for every industry and occasion conceivable. When we started Wild Creations, we were attending up to thirty per year (too many). These days, we attend about five of the most important shows every year, and we make the best of each with methodic preparation.2. Set a goal.
Before you even register, ask yourself why you want to attend. The most obvious answer is to find new customers, but you may also want to network with other industry peers, set appointments with existing customers, attend seminars or simply walk the show yourself. Understanding what you want to accomplish will help you better plan.3. Prioritize your time.
Trade shows like Toy Fair can be massive, while others are small events of a few hundred vendors. Regardless, they all typically have numerous and concurrent seminars and social events, in addition to the show itself, so prioritizing will help utilize your time.4. Have a packing checklist.
Few things are more frustrating than forgetting sales sheets, business cards, a stapler or even pens (all of which I have personally forgotten at some point). The exuberant cost of last minute printing and overnight charges will cut into the shows success as well. To avoid this, make a detailed checklist of items to pack and bring. There are no shortage of checklists available online, but compile one for yourself with your own personal preferences. Be sure to include time for printing (brochures, sales sheets, etc.) and delivery, and always plan on comfortable shoes meant for long period of standing, such as Crocs.5. Leverage social media.
Don't be shy about announcing your booth number and show specials regularly leading up to the show. During the show, be part of the ongoing chatter by effectively utilizing Twitter and Facebook, scheduling posts ahead of time with services such as Hootsuite and properly tagging with hashtags. See also these tips for boosting traffic while at the show.6. Seek out other small businesses owners.
The vast majority of companies who attend trade shows are small businesses. Approach them as allies, not adversaries, and you will develop an incredible network of peers who are more willing to support you and share leads. The toy industry, for instance, is dominated by a handful of huge toy manufactures that account for seventy percent of all revenue. The rest of us share a mantra: Small Businesses Unite!7. Network with industry professionals.
Trade shows offer unique opportunities to meet and network with ancillary service professionals, such as industry consultants, sales reps, public relations firms and other specialty services. While there are numerous to choose from, I suggest you network with companies that focus specifically on your industry. Lisa Orman of Kidstuff Public Relations and Richard Gottlieb of Global Toy Experts are two examples in the toy industry of smaller boutiques with incredibly deep relationships specific to our industry.8. Stand up and make eye contact.
If you want to have a successful show, you need to hustle. I am often shocked to see people sitting behind a table at a booth, checking email on the phone or otherwise ignoring buyers that walk by. With hundreds of companies showing, you can’t expect attendees to notice you right away and, more important, to remember you after they leave.9. Follow up on leads.
After the show ends, the real work begins. If you have effectively kept track of your sales leads, it is now time for follow up. Avoid generic email blasts to everyone, and remember that the contacts you are reaching out to have just spent several days at the show and have met hundreds of other businesses. Taylor your follow up to a conversation you had. Better yet, make a greater impression by sending a handwritten card.10. Have fun.
Entrepreneurs rarely (or never) take vacations, so a trade shows can offer a break from the regular monotony. Sure, you are going to work, probably harder than most days, but take time to indulge and enjoy the show and the host city.
The right approach can make a trade show a true success for your business.
Do you have any trade show lessons or anecdotes to share with other entrepreneurs? Please share below in the comments.