- BYOD and Remote Work: Resistance Is Futile
- Employer Mandate Delay Affects Some Small Businesses, Not All
- How to Find the Right Partner for Your New Business
- Look at Your Phone For Messages? Nope, Look at Your Pebble Smartwatch
- 5 Strategies Thought Leaders Use to Get Followers
|BYOD and Remote Work: Resistance Is FutilePosted: 04 Jul 2013 04:30 PM PDT
Small businesses that are adopting “mobile workstyles”—that is, allowing their employees to work whenever, wherever and however they choose—are enjoying productivity gains of more than 30 percent, according to new research sponsored by Citrix.
If your small business doesn’t yet offer remote or mobile work as an option, you might soon be in the minority. In the study, which polled small businesses worldwide, one-third of small business owners say there’s “more pressure” to offer or increase their mobile and flexible work options compared to five years ago.
Employees were the biggest source of the pressure. Nearly 30 percent report their employees are asking for remote work options. That’s more than the number offering remote work to meet budget considerations, improve productivity or enjoy competitive advantages.
BYOD, Bring Your Own Device
The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), trend is a major factor in the growing demand for remote work.
In 42 percent of global small businesses, employees in all departments, not just remote workers or customer-facing staff, are now asking if they can use their personal devices for business.
In fact, employees in 68 percent of American small businesses already use personal devices for work. Employees want BYOD because they claim it makes their lives easier, enabling them to manage both their personal and business lives as the line between the two blurs.
What Devices Are Most Useful in Remote Work?
While tablets are key business tools for 25 percent of respondents, they’re still far behind smartphones in terms of importance. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents name smartphones as their most-relied-on device, compared to just 58 percent who cite desktop computers.
Small businesses are increasingly using social collaboration tools such as video conferencing, with nearly half of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that these tools make meetings more productive. Collaboration tools are growing in popularity both because they’re getting easier to use (cited by 39 percent) and because they’re increasingly necessary to deal with widely dispersed work teams and customers (says 32 percent).
Driven by easier access to high-definition video, 52 percent of small business owners regularly use video conferencing in their businesses, and nearly half say it makes their companies more productive.
Being more efficient in meetings is especially important since 27 percent of senior execs polled say they’re spending more time in meetings than they did five years ago.
With summer in full swing, it’s interesting to note that small business owners believe remote/mobile work can solve a common problem – decreased productivity during the summer months. Forty-one percent say that a mobile strategy could help employees be more productive during this time.
What Do These Survey Results Mean to You?
Clearly, remote work is not going anywhere soon.
With both employees and the 24/7 nature of business demanding it, smart small businesses will develop policies to keep their data secure, manage devices and lay out expectations for how employees should work when they’re out of the office.
If you’re still resisting the concept of remote work, it’s time to give in or risk becoming a dinosaur.
BYOD Photo via Shutterstock
|Employer Mandate Delay Affects Some Small Businesses, Not AllPosted: 04 Jul 2013 01:43 PM PDT
The U.S. Department of the Treasury this week announced a year’s delay in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. The delay impacts only the employer mandate portion of the law, not requirements for individuals to purchase coverage.
Writing on the department’s official Treasury Notes Blog, Mark J. Mazur, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, explained:
For U.S. small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees, this change doesn’t directly impact them – as employers. That’s because businesses with under 50 employees were not subject to the employer mandate provisions in the first place.
Of course, the vast majority of U.S. small businesses have fewer than 50 employees. Most have fewer than 20.
But for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees, it gives you a brief reprieve. The delay effectively means small businesses with more than 50 employees now have another year before being required to either provide government approved health benefits to employees or face a $2,000 per-employee penalty. Instead of complying in January of 2014, businesses have until January of 2015.
And for solopreneurs or owners of single-person businesses, you may be required to purchase government-approved healthcare next year as an individual. If you don’t, you may face a penalty as an individual.
Small Business Groups Respond
As a Wall Street Journal editorial observes, the delay causes uncertainty and confusion for businesses. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board was a particularly harsh critic yesterday about the recent delay, noting:
The Journal suggests the delay is a political move designed to get past this fall’s election season. The Board even suggests further political maneuvering to deal with it.
Unfortunately, political maneuvering doesn’t help businesses — not to mention their employees. While politicos battle it out in Washington, “Main Street” and the people who live there have to figure out what it all means to them.
Business advocacy groups have been speaking out. Let’s cover just some of the reactions in the past 48 hours:
The NFIB used it as an opportunity to call for more evaluation of a law they say will ultimately harm small businesses. “This is simply the latest evidence that implementation of this terrible law is going to be difficult if not impossible, and the burden is going to fall on the people who create American jobs,” said Amanda Austin, Director of Federal Public Policy for the National Federation of Independent Business. “Temporary relief is small consolation. We need a permanent fix to this provision to provide long term relief for small employers.”
The IFA expressed more happiness about the delay, but also called for reexamination. “We applaud the administration for responding to our repeated requests to provide relief from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” added International Franchise Association President and CEO Steve Caldeira. “This will relieve the onerous and costly burdens of the ACA for one year, and allow the Administration to reexamine its implications for small businesses. We look forward to continuing our work with the Administration to ensure that the Affordable Care Act is implemented with minimal negative impact on franchise small business owners.”
The Council of Smaller Enterprises, an Ohio small business group, focused on the need to help educate employees to make the right choices. In an email update to COSE members, it noted:
Applying the Mandate in Practice
Regardless of your political leanings or what you may think of Obamacare, the delay does give businesses breathing room. And breathing room is what some need, because the law is complex.
Larry Meigs, CEO of Visiting Angels, a franchise supplying adult in-home care, with 450 plus offices in 45 U.S. states, says there are many details for business owners to sort through.
“The Affordable Care Act affects our business more than it does many other businesses,” Meigs said in an interview with Small Business Trends.
That’s because the product and service the company’s franchise owners market is their employees’ time, something that cannot be scaled back to cut costs.
Meigs says the most complicated part of compliance is that many franchise owners in his company have employees whose hours vary considerably from full-time to a varying number of part-time hours.
But the law requires that businesses determine whether the hours worked by part-timers make up the equivalent of having 50 full-time employees. If they do, the business is still required to supply health benefits or face a per employee penalty, Meigs said.
He said the company is encouraging franchise owners to provide the insurance coverage if required rather than pay the penalty since providing a plan will help with employee retention. ”Our theme for our industry is, offer coverage,” Meigs added.
More Information on Employer Mandate
Still wondering how the employer shared responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act applies to your business when it finally does go into effect Jan. 1, 2015? Paychex has created a good information center to help you figure it out, including calculators.
The post Employer Mandate Delay Affects Some Small Businesses, Not All appeared first on Small Business Trends.
|How to Find the Right Partner for Your New BusinessPosted: 04 Jul 2013 11:00 AM PDT
Do you need a business partner? A partner can be your best asset or your worst burden. But not all startups need to be partnerships. Your circumstance dictates your decision. Even more important than this decision is the choice of the right business partner.
Do You Need a Business Partner?
Before you decide who can be an appropriate partner in the venture, you need to pay attention to this basic question. The answer is in the affirmative in the following circumstances:
It is Complex
A new venture requires effort in every aspect. Apart from the core business idea, there are numerous things you need to take care of – formalities, taxes, accounts, finances, contacts and many others.
If the new business is of a complicated nature, the chances are high that you would find it difficult to do everything on your own. Hiring employees is often not an option for a new business, as it would mean more worries about overhead costs, taxes and salaries.
You need a partner who can handle some of the tasks and ease your burden.
You Lack Knowledge and Experience in a Certain Area
Accept it; no one can know everything. You can be very good at technicalities but very poor at sales and marketing. This often creates an imbalance in a new venture.
Suppose your startup is about selling computer applications. Even if you have extensive knowledge and experience in computer applications, you may fall short of success if you fail to focus on another aspect of the business – the selling of the products.
You need a partner who can add on to create the perfect set of skills and expertise.
It Requires Teamwork
Some people work best when they are in a team while others achieve success as a loner. If you are in the first category, you may find it difficult to work on your own when you start off.
Moreover, some businesses require diverse skills to attain success. A team is better suited for such ventures. When you team up with someone who fills the gaps and brings another perspective, your chances of success increase.
You need a partner to make the ideal team for your new business.
Who Can Be Your Business Partner?
Attention to the dos and don’ts is essential to make this choice. The right characteristics in your partner can make your business a success; the wrong ones can ruin your chances.
Choose Someone You Trust
You cannot build a successful relationship if you don’t have trust as its foundation. The same applies to business partnerships. You need someone you can trust and someone who can trust you.
If you cannot trust your partner, you would only end up wasting time and effort monitoring them. It would do more harm than good. Make sure the partnership is based on mutual trust.
Don’t Confine Your Choice
A brother, a spouse or a friend can be a great partner for your small business. Such a partner may be easily convinced about your idea. It may also be easier to accumulate funds when you have a family member or friend as your partner.
The point is – don’t let a relationship dictate your choice of a business partner. Your brother may be good at handling accounts, but he needs to be much more than that to be a practical choice. If he can add value to the business, he is the right choice.
Find Someone Talented
You need to find someone who can compensate for the lacks you have. Choose someone who complements you with regard to knowledge and experience to ensure that your business is a success.
An equal can be an ideal partner. If you choose someone way ahead of you in terms of knowledge or experience, you may end up as a follower. If you choose someone who is way behind, you may end up with a burden instead of an asset.
Don’t Compromise on Ethics
Have extensive discussions with a potential partner about business ethics and practices before you make the selection. At times, the little differences can snowball into big problems.
An unethical or unscrupulous partner can ruin the reputation of your business. He/she can cause other problems too. You need to trust your partner; but if you trust someone like that, you may end up in big trouble.
Do Ensure Mutual Respect
A high opinion about someone can make it easier to create a successful business partnership. If you don’t have respect for your partner, things can become difficult in the long run.
A trustworthy, talented and estimable individual can prove to be an appropriate business partner. But you need to make sure that you two share the same values and principles yet have different perspectives to make a winning partnership.
Search Photo via Shutterstock
The post How to Find the Right Partner for Your New Business appeared first on Small Business Trends.
|Look at Your Phone For Messages? Nope, Look at Your Pebble SmartwatchPosted: 04 Jul 2013 09:07 AM PDT
Sometimes it seems like all eyes are glued to our smartphones. Go to an airport, and it seems like everybody waiting for a plane is looking at a phone. Even when it would be a breach of business etiquette to look at your phone, such as in meetings or at conferences, many of us find it hard to resist pulling the phone out and sneaking a peek to check messages or Twitter updates.
But now you don’t need to pull out your phone. Instead, you might just casually glance at your wristwatch — your Pebble smartwatch, that is.
Pebble Watch is a smartwatch developed by Pebble Technology. Its development was funded via Kickstarter, where it raised a record $10 million. Pebble’s smartwatch started shipping to its backers in early 2013, and has been available for sale on the Pebble website.
Now it is about to hit retail stores.
The jet black version will be available July 7th at Best Buy stores, for $149. Other colors, including white and orange, will still only be available at the Pebble website for now.
How Pebble Works
Pebble doesn’t replace your smartphone, but instead works with it.
Pebble connects to your iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth. You download the Pebble app onto your phone. Then information is transmitted to the watchface. For instance, you can check emails on it, or caller ID to see who’s calling you. You can access Twitter and Facebook updates with it.
You can also customize the watchfaces. Pebble uses outdoor-readable electronic-paper (e-paper) displays. The watchface is customized using software apps — you can make it look like various versions of a traditional watch with a dial, and hour, minute and second hands. Or you can make it look like a digital readout.
Pebble is not the first smartwatch to be invented. Sony, for instance, offers a smartwatch that works with some Android devices. But Pebble is the first one that has captured wide interest among the public. More importantly, Pebble has a growing community of third party developers extending its functionality through apps.
When the Pebble was first shipped to Kickstarter backers in March of this year, one of the complaints was that it was fairly limited in the kinds of ways you could use it. But in the few months since then, third party developers have been developing apps to extend the usefulness of the Pebble smartwatch. Pebble actively encourages third party developers.
Using Pebble for Business
Pebble is great for sports and hobbies. A lot has been written about how if you’re a cyclist, runner or golfer you can use Pebble as a bike computer, accessing the GPS on your smartphone to display speed, distance and pace data.
But we see the potential for using Pebble for business. As a business owner you can use Pebble to stay on top of things with notifications, messages and alerts. For instance, you can pair up Pebble to give notifications you set up with “notification recipes” through IFTTT.com.
You can even dismiss a notification with a shake of your wrist. Disabling all notifications is simple as well.
Here are just some of the notifications your Pebble natively gives you:
Apps and native support for certain tasks vary based on whether you’re using it with an Android device or an iPhone. Be sure to check for availability of specific functions on the phone platform of your choice.
Each week more third party apps are being developed to further customize and extend the usefulness of the smartwatch.
You can be notified when your next meeting is going to begin. Or what time the next bus or train is so that you won’t be late even if you are engrossed in work. If you’d like a quick power nap between meetings then check-in on your watch, or create an app that can monitor your sleep. You can even use this feature to monitor time taken to complete tasks like replying to emails, writing reports and printing them.
Want to play some music to give an interesting twist to a presentation? You can use the music control app to play, pause or skip tracks on your phone with the touch of a button.
There’s a lot of potential. While the mobile device category of the smartwatch is still young, it holds promise.
Zac Honig of Engadget gives an overview of Pebble’s setup and basic functions in the video below.
The post Look at Your Phone For Messages? Nope, Look at Your Pebble Smartwatch appeared first on Small Business Trends.
|5 Strategies Thought Leaders Use to Get FollowersPosted: 04 Jul 2013 05:00 AM PDT
As a small business owner, you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field. You want people to consider you the go-to expert on your industry, the products you sell and trends. But to achieve that, you’ve got to put in a little work. True thought leaders use the following techniques to build loyal fans, traffic to their sites, and revenues.
Secret Strategies Thought Leaders Use
1. Have a Voice on Multiple Platforms
Guy Kawasaki is a great example here. He spends a great deal of time on Google +, but he’s also active on other social sites. He speaks publicly, gives webinars and shares his insight on American Express’ Open Forum. He’s everywhere, because his audience is everywhere. By not only focusing on one channel, he reaches a wider audience.
That being said, don’t overextend your reach. Only take on what you have time to handle. If you set up 10 social media profiles but only have time to update three, the other seven will fall short. Figure out where you most enjoy spending time, online and off, and make those your priorities.
2. Share Great Content
This doesn’t always mean it’s your own content. David Meerman Scott shares a great mix of content from his own blog, as well as other content he thinks is relevant to his followers. If you share too much of your own content, you’ll turn people off.
Spend time each day curating what’s out there in the world of web. Share it. Comment on it and add your own insight.
3. Be a Resource
People who are truly passionate about what they do find it easy to answer questions and give advice. If you meet me at a networking event, chances are, I’ll give you a few marketing tips. I can’t help it. This is a great way to be considered a thought leader.
Focus on delivering value, online and off, not making a sale. Have a genuine interest in helping others. Soon, they’ll send other people to you and word will get around that you’re simply a nice person who knows your stuff. That builds trust and trust is one of the key components to getting people to buy from you, especially in business services, when the product can’t always speak for itself the way a box of detergent can.
4. Keep Learning
The thing about being an expert is – you never reach the pinnacle of knowing it all. There’s always more to learn and other ways to grow. Be humble and open to learning. Read blogs and websites, books and magazines. Attend seminars and workshops. Hone your craft. After all, technology constantly changes the game for most of us, so there’s always fresh information that can help keep you the smartest person in the room, if you’re willing to learn it.
The learning doesn’t have to be specifically related to what you do. Check out Coursera or other online learning and learn something completely left field. You might find it enhances your business skills in surprising ways.
5. Make Connections
Great thought leaders want to help people. If you meet a graphic designer and you happen to know someone who needs one, make the connection. It might not serve you directly, but people appreciate the effort and you never know where it’ll come back to you down the road.
Being a thought leader involves positioning yourself as an expert and genuinely wanting to help people. By taking these actions, you’ll build a loyal following you can convert into customers.
Leader Photo via Shutterstock