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2016

By Cathie Ericson.

 

BizApps_Body.jpgA recent study by a Silicon Valley analyst found that the average app loses 77 percent of its users a mere three days after it’s installed, with only 5 percent of users continuing to use an app three months later.

So which business apps are deserving of the precious real estate on your phone screen? Beyond the basics such as Evernote and project coordination apps like Asana, Basecamp, and Slackhere are five apps we think will earn their keep on your smart phone today, and down the road. (All available for iOS and Android.)

Pocket: (Free) It happens all the time: you’re clicking through emails and come across a story you want to read or a TED Talk you want to watch, but don’t have time. Just stick it in your “Pocket” to read at your leisure. Once you’ve downloaded the app, it’s easy to access. Whenever you click to save a link, it includes Pocket as one of your choices, just like email, Facebook or Twitter. You can then access your saved items later across devices, even if you’re not on WiFi. A bonus is the twice-weekly email they send with articles other users have liked.

Toggl: (From $10 to $59 per user, per month) Wait, you spent how long mindlessly surfing the web? Well, for better or for worse, using this app means that you’ll know exactly where your time is spent. As a business owner, you’ll love how it generates reports of billable BizApps_PQ.jpgtime for you and your whole team, easily created into client reports and/or compared with historical data. You can also color code projects and give different billable rates to different projects and tasks.

TinyScan: (Free for eight scans; $4.99 for unlimited scans and cloud storage) Never carry around a sheaf of receipts and notes again. TinyScan allows you to scan receipts, business cards, photos and more as images or PDFs that you can name and organize into folders. Once scanned, you can send them via email or to a Dropbox, Evernote or Google Drive account.

Hotel Tonight: (Free) Business travel can be incredibly unpredictable, and sometimes you’ll find that your meeting ran long or your flight was delayed. There you are, stuck in a city with nowhere to stay. That’s when this app can make your whole day (or night) by finding you available nearby rooms, typically at great prices. And you don’t have to use it only for “tonight” of course; booking a week ahead is available as well.

App in the Air (Free with upgrades available): Road warriors gravitate to anything that can make their airport life easier and you’ve found it with App in the Air. It shows both your flight history and your upcoming flights, complete with check-in and boarding times and detailed airport maps. It also tracks your reward miles so you can figure out when you can go somewhere fun for free. Now that’s good business. 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Did you hear the one about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit?

 

The thing was, he wasn’t so lucky. Oswald was Walt Disney’s first attempt at creating an iconic cartoon character. But as it turns out that, like a lot of entrepreneurs, Walt Disney wasn’t so great at business when he first started out. In fact, he was so bad at it that he had to file for bankruptcy and in the process, lost the rights to Oswald. It was almost a decade later, and once again on the verge of bankruptcy, that Disney had his breakthrough moment with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1938.

 

The key takeaway is that Walt Disney had learned his lesson. As he later admitted, “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

 

No one likes to fail. No one wants to fail. But failure is a fact a life, especially when it comes to running a business. If you are going to start, own, and/or run a small business, you are going to encounter failure at some point.

 

The question is, what are you going to do about it?Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

As the song goes, the best entrepreneurs pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

In the 1970s, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented the first Apple computer in Jobs’ parent’s garage while he was still living at home. Over the next 10 years, Apple became the darling of the tech industry. Yet in 1985, rubbing the wrong people the wrong way, Jobs was forced to resign as CEO of the company he started. He spent most of the next decade in the computer wilderness, creating a company and computer that was a far cry from Apple (NeXt.) But he too seemed to learn his lesson, coming back to Apple in 1996 to lead it to even greater heights.

 

Jobs had this to say about success and failure while famously giving a commencement address at Stanford:

 

“Don't let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

 

Or what about Honda automobiles? Honda is considered by many to be the gold standard of automakers. Did you know it was started by a guy who couldn’t find a job? Soichiro Honda tried to get a job at Toyota after the war but failed and couldn’t find employment anywhere. Running out of options, he began building scooters at home. Voilà.

 

Finally, did you know that Abraham Lincoln was probably our most failure-prone president? Lincoln was surprisingly unsuccessful the first time he tried many things. The key lesson is that he was persistent. He was willing to risk and fail and learn and move forward. Consider Lincoln’s pre-presidential life:

 

1832—Lost job.

1833—Failed in business.

1834—Elected to Illinois state legislature.

1835—Sweetheart died.

1836—Had nervous breakdown.

1846—Elected to Congress.

1848—Lost re-nomination.

1854—Defeated for U.S. Senate.

1856—Defeated for nomination for vice president.

1858—Defeated for U.S. Senate again.

1860—Elected president.

 

So maybe it’s the wise Abe Lincoln who can teach us the most about how to deal with the inevitability of failure:

 

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

In my experience, there are two top pain points for most small businesses:

 

  • Not enough time
  • Not enough money

 

When I say ‘not enough money,’ I do not necessarily mean that those businesses don’t make enough (though that certainly could be true) but rather, there often isn’t enough money around to do everything that the small business owner may want to do.

 

The question then becomes, how do you make the most with what you have? The secret is to increase your cash flow. Cash flow is the oxygen of your business – if it is in abundant supply, you breathe well, and if it’s not, your business will begin to choke.

 

Here are six strategies to help increase the all-important cash flow:

 

1. Credit checks: Back when I first started practicing law, a seemingly nice guy came into my office. He really needed to file for bankruptcy, and I really needed the business, so I agreed to his unique proposal: He would pay me half of my fee up front and then the other half once we filed. So what happened? He paid me half, I filed his paperwork, and then he let me go and added the remainder of my fee into his bankruptcy.

 

Lesson learned…the hard way.

 

Extending credit to those who don’t deserve it is one sure way to mess up your cash flow. The answer to this is to take a stand. You don’t need their business that badly (and I didn’t need his business that badly). Running a credit check before extending credit will help ensure proper cash flow.

 

2. Find a factor: Even when the customer has good credit, it doesn’t mean they will always pay on time. Then what? Consider factoring. Factoring is an arrangement where a company (called a factor) will pay you for your accounts receivable. You might get, say 95 cents on the dollar, but the good news is that a factor typically pays within 48 hours or so.

 

3. Get paid faster: It is fairly standard in business to have clients and customers pay Net 30, that is, 30 days after you invoice them. One obvious way to increase cash flow therefore is to get paid faster. How?

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

  • Give customers an incentive for paying sooner, say a 1% discount or something
  • Give them a disincentive for paying late, say a 5% penalty

 

4. Collect past-due debts: It serves no one for you to be the nice guy but not get paid. Deadbeat customers learn that they can get away with not paying you on time and they also set a precedent for you to give others the same courtesy. Generally speaking, the solution is . . .

 

Don’t do it.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Of course there are times and relationships that require this tactic and that is smart and good business. However, making a habit of it is bad business, period.

 

5. Get it in writing: Set forth your payment policies in writing and make sure all customers are aware of them going in. Either make it part of your standard contract or have your policies added as an insert to your first billing cycle. And remember, you don’t have to offer Net 30. You could be Net 15, or Pay Upon Receipt. It’s your business after all.

 

6. Sell excess inventory or equipment: If you have inventory that you have been unable to move, then discount it and get it out of there! The same goes for old equipment in storage or otherwise not in use.  If it is gathering dust, it would behoove you to free up the space and generate some cash in the process.

 

In the end, what you don’t want is to be like me – the guy who is still owed $425.20 years later.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Heather Johnson.

 

EntrepreneurialActivity_Body.jpgMore people than ever have decided now is the time to launch a small business, according to a new survey.

 

The 2016 Kauffman Index, a detailed analysis of entrepreneurship released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, reports more than half of U.S. states and large metro areas saw an uptick in entrepreneurial activity over the past year.

 

National picture

Thirty states saw higher levels of total new business activity compared with 2015. Of the 40 largest metro areas, 23 saw an increase in new business activity.

 

The past two years of growth come after a five-year downward trend brought on by the recession.  Startups rebounded in 2015 by about 10 percent—the largest year-over-year increase in the past 20 years. In 2016, that figure rose again by about eight percent.

 

New opportunities

The Kauffman Index’s opportunity share data refer to the percent of new entrepreneurs that started businesses because they saw market opportunities. The increase in opportunity share for 2016 indicates a positive environment for small business.

 

The figure, which measures the percent of new entrepreneurs who were not unemployed when they started their businesses, rose from about 79.5 percent in 2015 to 84 percent in 2016. The numbers indicate small business owners are gaining confidence to start new ventures.

 

State rankings

Texas, Florida, California, and New York held the highest entrepreneurial activity of the 25 larger states. Despite the oil and gas industry downturn, Texas moved up two places to claim the top spot, with an entrepreneur rate (percentage of entrepreneurs per month for every 100,000 adults) of .39 percent.

 

Florida, the eighth most densely populated state in the U.S., has the second-highest startup density (number of new startups for every 1,000) at 101.8. It placed second on the state rankings.

 

EntrepreneurialActivity_PQ.jpgOf the smaller states, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Oklahoma topped the list. Montana and Nevada reclaimed their first and second place positions, respectively, from last year, while Wyoming moved up from fifth place in 2015 to third place in 2016.

 

With its strong energy and healthcare sectors, Oklahoma rose from number eight to number four. According to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, Oklahoma small businesses employed 52.8 of its private workforce in 2016.

 

Metro rankings

Austin, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas boasted the highest startup activity in Kauffman’s metro rankings. With the wave of high-tech innovators moving to San Francisco, the city by the Bay jumped from number nine to number four. Orlando, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Detroit also saw impressive shifts up.

 

Orlando, Florida, made the most significant move in startup activity, rising from 33 to 21. Its home state’s diverse workforce, solid infrastructure, and easy global access makes it one of the most attractive areas for small business. The U.S. Census Bureau ranked the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area number one for population and job growth in 2015.

 

The 2016 Kauffman Index provides city and state agencies and organizations insights they can use to build stronger small business communities. “All entrepreneurship is local,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said in the Kauffman report’s forward. “And the policymakers, entrepreneurship supporters and communities that overlook this reality do so at their own peril.”

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Jennifer Shaheen.

OnlineSelling_Body.jpgAs the holiday shopping season draws ever nearer, it’s important for business owners to understand what today’s shoppers are looking for, both online and when they visit brick and mortar stores. While product and pricing remain important, these factors are only part of the equation: it’s a superior shopping experience that generates online sales. Here are some of the features that are attractive to today’s shoppers:

Make shopping fun
Pyramid Management Group, which operates one of the largest shopping mall groups in the country, has been aggressively adding entertainment-oriented businesses like indoor golf driving ranges and skydiving simulators to its offerings. They’ve found that people are spending more time and money in the mall as a result. This parallels what’s happening online, where brands that deliver the most entertaining experience via their website and social media are enjoying the best sales.

Don’t just sell, entertain
Lush is one of the fastest growing cosmetic retailers, with 956 stores worldwide. Much of the credit for the brand’s exponential rate of growth goes to the role storytelling plays in their digital marketing strategy. On the website, seasonal content, including both articles and videos, appears on the same page with related merchandise. Blog content appears throughout the customer’s shopping journey, ensuring that buyers have an opportunity to read or watch additional material in unexpected locations, such as a product detail page.

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Go the extra step Customers want to enjoy their shopping experience. This means they want to be excited about the items they buy. Food 52, an extremely popular cooking and entertainment website, generates retail excitement by presenting products with appealing recipes, care notes, and details about the cookware’s unique appeal. The cross-merchandising works the other way around as well: among the related links shown on a recipe page will be links to similar dishes and the cookware needed to start cooking right away.

Stay connected to the customer
In the customer’s mind, a purchase isn’t completed until they actually receive the products they’ve ordered online. Brandable mailers—which include shipping cartons, packaging materials and mailing supplies unique to a specific company—are becoming increasingly popular among smaller retailers who are looking for a way to distinguish themselves from Amazon and Walmart.com. Unboxing videos, created and shared by customers opening their packages, are so popular that they’re considered a YouTube institution; the trend has begun to spread to other social media platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat. With this in mind, it’s vital that the online retailer ensures their fulfillment processes are as high-touch and satisfying as the experience provided in store.

Keep it fresh
Perhaps the most important aspect of an entertaining online shopping experience is that it’s continually fresh, with visitors finding new content on a regular basis. This ongoing need for new material has led retailers to experiment with various video angles, lighting effects, and other ways of presenting their products and content. It’s important to bear in mind that today’s customer is not looking for Madison Avenue-type merchandising every time they pick up their smartphone. Jill Byron, senior vice president of marketing for Mode Media recommends encouraging customers, professional creators and experts to communicate their love or need for your brand in their own words and style. Having authentic, appealing content appearing regularly is the most important thing retailers can do to create the essential online experience customers are looking for.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

CauseMarketing_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

A small business can attract customers and also do some good locally or nationwide with cause marketing. Cause marketing is generally defined as the close alignment of a for-profit business with a non-profit entity for an altruistic or humanitarian goal. For example, General Mills donated 10 cents to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation every time a pink lid from its brand of Yoplait yogurt was sent in. The campaign, which ran from 1998 through 2014, raised more than $35 million. 

 

Such mutual cooperation can impact a business in practical ways. One study on cause marketing found that 72 percent of people surveyed would recommend a brand that supported a cause.

 

Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group, a Columbia, Missouri-based communications company, has identified these benefits to small businesses of participating in a cause marketing campaign.

 

1. Boosts your brand image

A business that aligns itself with a good cause will often see their brand image elevated in the eyes of their customers and potentially to prospects outside the business's neighborhood. Consumers think favorably of businesses that take part in activities that go beyond just selling a product or service.

 

CauseMarketing_PQ.jpg2. Attracts more customers

When your business supports a good cause, you will likely generate more media coverage—and attract more customers. Consumers are willing to demonstrate their commitment to you and your cause with their wallets. A Nielsen survey on corporate social responsibility found that 42 percent of people surveyed in North America would be "willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact."

 

3. Recruits and retains employees

Supporting good causes makes a difference to your current employees as well as to future job seekers, leading to a deeper loyalty to your business. Millennials in the 18-to-34 age bracket are particularly drawn to businesses that demonstrate a genuine commitment to cause marketing.

 

4. Gives you access to new audiences

Even if the cause you align yourself with is not perfectly suited to the interests of your target audience, your business can still come out ahead. You will be able to reach new kinds of consumers who might not have been moved before through your ordinary marketing methods.

 

5. Supplements your sales

Studies show that consumers are highly likely to buy products and services from businesses that support good causes over those that don't, all other things being equal. The "feel good" sensation that customers get from helping you support a cause they believe in can lead to a rosier bottom line.

 

The evidence seems clear that cause marketing can not only contribute to a community, but can also burnish your sales, employee, and brand potential.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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