What is Your Most Valuable Customer Feedback Channel? (POLL)

There are many ways to get customer feedback, but some work better for different small businesses. Which customer feedback channel works best for you?

Getting feedback from your customers is critical. Feedback let’s you measure customer response to your product, service or brand and make tweaks where necessary.

But when it comes right down to it, the real question is how your customers prefer to provide you that feedback. (How you prefer to receive it is less important.) It’s best for you to be attuned to the way your customers prefer to communicate.

Which Customer Feedback Channel Work Best for You?

In the end, listening effectively to your customers is a huge competitive advantage. But knowing how to listen and where and from whom you get the best insight is also key.

Think about all the ways you hear from your customers and clients. Then let us know …

What is your most valuable customer feedback channel?

View Results / See All Polls

Feedback Photo via Shutterstock

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10 Tips for Being Prepared as an Entrepreneur

sharksofthesharktank

Being a successful small business means you need to be prepared. You can’t necessarily prepare for every potential situation you’ll run into. But there are some things you can do to be as prepared as possible. Members of our small business community share some tips for being prepared in the list below.

Introduce Yourself to Risk Assessment in Project Management

When it comes to project management, proper risk assessment can really save you a lot of time and resources. You can learn more about risk assessment and the impact it can have on project management for your business in this Nutcache post by Sebastien Boyer.

Create a Winning Business Pitch

If you want to ensure a successful future for your small business, you need to first know how to create a successful pitch. This Noobpreneur post by Rick Enrico includes some do’s and don’t’s for creating a winning business pitch.

Avoid These Small Business Nightmares

Being prepared as a small business owner means understanding some of the things you should avoid, like the common entrepreneurial fears in this post by Jonathan Dyer on the Dyer News blog. Members of the BizSugar community also discuss the post here.

Use These Customer Retention Tools for SaaS Companies

Once you get customers, you need to figure out how to keep them. That’s where customer retention comes in. The tips in this Process Street post by Teresa Millard can help SaaS companies and others retain customers.

Help Your Business Have a Strong End-of-Year Finish

The end of the year is quickly approaching. And you can prepare for a strong end of 2016 by having a great fall. The fall business tips listed in this post by Nellie Akalp of CorpNet can help you do just that.

Reach the Right Customers With These Search Marketing Tips

For businesses looking to grow, having a way to reach new customers is essential. And search marketing can be a great avenue for that, as Tim Kitchen explains in this SMB CEO post. You can also see input on the post from members of the BizSugar community.

Be Prepared in Case Your Website Gets Hacked

Cyberattacks happen. But there are some things you can do to help your business avoid them. And even if they do happen, you should know what to expect. This post by Ramon Ray of Smallbiztechnology.com includes some tips for how to avoid and deal with your small business website getting hacked.

Reach the Most People on Facebook

Facebook is likely to continue being a popular way for businesses to reach customers. So if you know how to reach as many people as possible on the platform, you’re likely to put your business in a pretty good situation. Here, Mariel Loveland shares tips for reaching the most people on Facebook in this Media Shower Post.

Use This Strategic Guide to Content Repurposing

Content marketing can be a time consuming process. But if you’re able to repurpose your content effectively, as outlined in this CJG Digital Marketing post by Jomer Gregorio, you can save some time and still create great content. You can read thoughts  on the post from BizSugar members too.

Get These Productivity Boosting Tips for Remote Workers

The holidays are a great time for you to show your appreciation for employees and even freelance workers. And you can even help your business by getting your team some productivity-boosting gifts, like the ones included in this Redbooth post by Matt Duczeminski.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: [email protected]

Sharks of the Shark Tank image via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

4 Things That Fritter Away Your Key Productivity Hours Every Day

These 4 Time Wasters at Work Fritter Away Your Key Productivity Hours Every Day

There is only a certain amount of time during the day to finish tasks but no matter what we do, it seems that time is never enough. Sometimes at the end of the day, we accomplish nothing and feel unproductive. But maybe, the reason for it is not the time. It is because we are using our time inefficiently. Therefore, in order to spend the day more meaningfully and achieve goals, stay away from below.

Avoid These Time Wasters at Work

Social Media

Social media can kill your productivity at work, unless you are responsible running your company’s social media accounts. Social media is very useful if you want to network, connect with old friends or follow the recent trends but if you don’t have a purpose and just want some gossip about the people you know, then social media is a big time waster. If you want to look at your personal social media accounts, do it on your coffee or lunch break or on your commute with public transportation.

Meetings

Last minute meetings or meetings without agendas can be big time wasters and prevent you doing your real work. Think about the meetings you have attended during the week. How many of them were really necessary? Probably only a few. Therefore, you need to learn to say “No” to unnecessary meetings and focus on your real tasks that need to be finished. Also, you can solve some of the problems with a quick phone call or group chat; you don’t need a meeting for every single problem.

Emails

The email message that is popping up on your computer screen can create urgency for many to check their inboxes constantly. Checking your emails frequently can make you waste your time, since you need to refocus on the task that you have been working on. Unless you are truly waiting for an important email, you should schedule specific times to check your emails such as in the morning, after lunch and in the afternoon. The same holds for your smart phone messages and voicemail as well.

Multitasking

Interesting but yes, multitasking kills productivity. Let’s look at the situation with an example. If you are working on your emails at the same time you are working on your real work, then it will take you more time to complete both of them compared to working on them one-by-one. As a result, you will waste your time. The reason of this is that multi-tasking divides your attention between tasks and since each task gets less attention, you need more time to finish them. Work on one task at a time and move on to the next one when you are done.

Wasted Time Photo via Shutterstock

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More Samsung Products Recalled Over Safety Issues (Watch)

  • play iconSamsung Issues Another Huge Recall For One Of Its ProductsSamsung Issues Another Huge Recall For One Of Its Products
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Samsung again says its recalling some of its products due to safety concerns. If it feels like you’ve heard this all before, you’re right.

Samsung has already dealt with issues regarding its Galaxy Note 7 devices overheating and even catching fire this year. And after a recall, the issue still wasn’t fixed for all consumers. So the company finally stopped production on the device. And now Samsung is issuing another recall for some of its washing machines. Some of these have violently fallen apart and even damaged nearby walls, according to a class action lawsuit.

So basically, Samsung isn’t having a great year. A company of this tech giant’s size might manage to survive more easily than your average small business. But some of the same principles apply. After marketing disasters like these, companies often must undergo some big changes. In fact, a recent Business Insider report speculated that Samsung might be replacing some of its staff shortly.

How Far Do You Have to Go to Restore Customer Trust?

A few new faces might not be enough to repair Samsung’s image, however. Consumers take product safety seriously. So if customers begin to associate Samsung’s brand with unsafe products, the company may need a fresh perspective. It will also need to introduce new product lines with updated safety features. Or make other changes that could distance the brand from these unfortunate incidents to restore customer trust.

Image: CPSC/Newsy

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69 Percent of U.S. Entrepreneurs Start Their Businesses at Home

Home based businesses 0

If you operate your business from home, you’re not alone. A recent survey of U.S. businesses indicates the majority of entrepreneurs do the same.

And that’s not just in the startup phase either. According to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report (PDF), more than half of U.S. entrepreneurs continue to operate their businesses from home long after those businesses are up and running. The study examined Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) across industry sectors in the U.S.

It’s also a mistake to think of the majority of these owners as so-called solopreneurs who never grow their businesses beyond a staff of one. Study authors observed:

Home-based businesses may evoke an image of the sole entrepreneur working out of a spare bedroom or garage, perhaps with one or several cofounders. Somewhat surprisingly, though, only one-fourth of the entrepreneurs surveyed stated they had no employees working for their businesses. Given the high prevalence of entrepreneurs operating at home (two-thirds of TEA), this finding suggests that many actually had employees in their home-based businesses.

The sense of awe in that statement — that home based businesses “actually” have employees — is interesting. It shouldn’t be surprising that so many businesses are being run out of entrepreneurs’ homes. Today in many businesses, work is done “virtually.” Workers’ technology (computers, mobile devices and Internet connections) is much more important than their physical workspace, especially in knowledge businesses.

Stats on Home-Based Businesses and Entrepreneurship

Here are some additional factoids of interest from this fascinating study:

It costs less than you might think to get a business off the ground — According to the study, entrepreneurs required a median of $15,000 to start a business. On the one hand, that’s a lot.  But on the other hand, it’s an amount that many people in the United States can save up or raise from family.

Most startups are self-funded or family/friends funded —  The vast majority of startup funds (82%) came from the entrepreneur himself or herself, or family and friends.

Venture capital is rare – Only one in 1,000 entrepreneurs in the United States receive venture capital  funding, according to a finding cited from an earlier study in 2009.  In other words, forget about venture capital. You’re better off spending your time growing your business than searching for VCs.

Entrepreneurship is not limited to a certain age group — Roughly 15% to 20% of adults across all age groups are entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship does follow age patterns, however — Young entrepreneurs have the highest intentions to start a business, with 30.5% saying they intend to start one.  The intention to start a business drops during mid-career, and then starts rising again at age 65 and up.

Women entrepreneurs are more likely to have home-based businesses —Among startup businesses that operate out of the owner’s home, 72% are operated by women — versus 61% of men.  Among established businesses more than 3 and a half years old, 68% of women still operate the business from home, versus 53% of men.

Senior citizens who continue to work tend to be entrepreneurs — Many seniors, of course, are retired.  But of those still working, more than 42% run established businesses (i.e., businesses more than 3 and a half years old).  About 10% are starting or running new businesses of less than a few years old. And over 25% intend to start a business.  So if you want to stay actively working in your senior years, consider your own business.

Outsourcing, family help, volunteers and part-time workers are sources of labor — Over 20% of business owners say they employed family members, had unpaid help (often family members), or part time employees.  And 30% outsource some activities.

Businesses not only are started from home, but tend to be run from them —The 2012 survey says 69% of businesses now start in the home. And 59% of established businesses more than 3 and a half years old continue to operate from there.

More businesses are consumer businesses than any other type —  We all know home businesses can include services like freelancing, independent contracting, consulting and virtual assistance.  But the 2012 study shows only 33% of all businesses surveyed fall into this category.

Another 41% of businesses include companies in the consumer sector. This could include hotels, restaurants or real estate. But it could also include Internet businesses based from home like eCommerce.

Other businesses covered in the survey are “extraction” businesses concerned mainly with natural resources like farming, mining and forestry and “transforming” businesses like manufacturing. These are usually capital intensive and so unlikely to include many businesses started in or operated from the home.

The study did not break down how many of each industry sector specifically are home based, however.

Why This Study is Important

The U.S. study was completed by researchers at Babson College and Baruch College who interviewed about 6,000 respondents.

Work was sponsored by the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association including Babson College, London Business School and representatives of the Association of GEM national teams. The Global Entrepreneurship Research program aims to describe and analyze entrepreneurial processes within a wide range of countries including the U.S.

This study tends to look broadly on the economic contributions of entrepreneurs who otherwise get short shrift in standard government statistics. For instance, recognizing the prevalence of home-based businesses is important, and recognizing that they employ people and outsource services is also important.  Recognizing that outsourcing helps grow employment in other companies is another positive point.

The way entrepreneurs run businesses in this country is very different from the government’s rigid (and limited) ways of measuring employment and economic impact.  It’s good to see a stellar source like the GEM Report and Babson calling attention to some of these structural changes.

More in: Chart of the Week

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50 Unusual Pet Businesses to Start

50 pet businesses unusual

Love animals? There are so many different businesses you can start that allow you to work around dogs, cats and various other pets.

You already know the basics — dog walking, training services, grooming, etc. But there are some more unusual pet business ideas out there as well. Below are unique pet related businesses you could consider starting.

Unusual Pet Business Ideas

Organic Treat Maker

Unusual Pet Business ideas

More and more, pet owners are concerning themselves with the ingredients of their pet food and treats. By baking and selling organic treats for pets, you can gain the attention of pet owners who are concerned about things like health and the environment.

Obedience Expert

You already know about dog trainers. But if you have the know-how, you can actually carve out a slightly different niche — as an obedience expert. You can work not only with dogs to develop good habits, but also work with their owners to maintain those habits.

Yard Cleaner

Anyone with a dog knows the difficulty of cleaning up after them — particularly when it comes to the yard. That means that a lot of customers are probably willing to pay for someone to come to their yard and provide pooper scooper services.

In-Home Cleaner

Alternatively, you could offer services to pet owning clients who need a little help picking up all the fur and other messes that their pets leave inside their homes.

Animal Blogger

If you love sharing photos of your pets or tips with other pet owners, you could consider starting a blog about your pet adventures or expertise.

Animal Toy Maker

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Most pet owners purchase some kind of toys for their animals to play with. If you like sewing or fabricating small toy type items, you could sell them as dog or cat toys.

Bed/Housing Designer

Some pet owners even purchase large beds, pillows, playhouses or other furniture for their animals to use. Woodworkers or builders, you could create some of these larger items and sell them to pet owners or stores.

Tank Designer

Not all pet owners have dogs or cats. Those who own fish, lizards, snakes or similar pets need tanks. So if you can create some unique tank designs, you have a market to sell them.

Pet Travel Service Provider

When people travel or move with their pets, it can be a stressful experience. If you have a method of transportation or even just some tips to share with pet owners, you can offer a service that helps pet owners transport their pets.

Pet Bandana Maker

Crafters and designers, you can make some simple bandanas out of colorful fabric or other soft material and sell them online, at craft shows or even at pet stores.

Collar Designer

You could also add designs, colors or even personalized details to pet collars or leashes and sell them at stores, events or online.

Cat Café Operator

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Cat cafés, or coffee shops that let customers hang out with cats while enjoying their beverages, have gained popularity over the past few years. If you love cats and cafes, this might be a fun business idea for you.

Dog Manicurist

For pet owners who don’t want to go though the hassle of trimming their dogs’ or cats’ nails, they might hire a pet manicurist. Some may even pay you to paint their pets’ nails.

Unique Pet Store Owner

Lots of pet store owners sell accessories for dogs and cats. But for those pet owners looking for other types of animals, from birds to snakes, you could start a store that offers items specifically for those more unusual animals.

Dog Whisperer

Pet owners who are dealing with a particularly difficult dog may be interested in the services of a dog whisperer. If you specialize in dog behavior, you may be able to help some of those dogs and dog owners get to the root of those issues.

Cat Toilet Trainer

Cat owners no longer have to deal with stinky litter boxes if they don’t want to. There are some products and solutions out there to help people actually train their cats to go outside or even in the bathroom.

Pet Bakery Owner

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Whether you make your own dog treats or just want to source them from other bakers, opening a bakery that specializes in pet food and treats can be a lucrative business.

Dog Beer Brewer

In recent years, some creative entrepreneurs have brewed a non alcoholic type of beer that’s safe for dogs, to give them a sort of liquid treat. If you enjoy brewing, you could consider selling dog beer.

YouTube Training Expert

If you don’t want to share your knowledge or expertise about pet training or behavior with clients in person, you could start a YouTube channel to inform pet owners about different methods.

Maker or Seller of Breath Mints for Dogs

If you’ve ever been close to a dog’s face, then you know all about dog breath. That’s why some pet owners purchase pet safe breath mints or other treats that are made to improve their pets’ breath and oral health.

Custom Pet Portrait Artist

For pet lovers with artistic talent, you can offer your services as a custom portrait artist. Customers can send you photos of their pets or tell you about their breed, then you can draw or paint their animal for a fee.

Pet Photographer

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Or you could take photos of people’s pets and sell the prints or just charge for each session.

Renter of Unusual Animals

If you own any unusual animals that serve a practical purpose, you could consider renting them out to people who want to use their services. For instance, some goat owners have rented out their goats to people with fields that need manicuring.

Pet Sharing Service Operator

Or even if you don’t have any unusual animals, you could rent out your pets or start a service for people who want to share custody of different animals, rather than owning one full time.

Fur Dying Specialist

People dye their hair all the time. While it’s a bit more rare with pets, there are some people who like adding different colors to their animals’ fur.

Tag Engraver

Pet owners often need or want tags for their pets’ collars that give their name and contact information. So you could allow customers to order custom pet tags that you engrave with their specific information.

Pet Clothing Designer

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Or you could use your creative talents to design and sew clothing items for dogs, cats and other animals.

Luxury Boarding Service Operator

When pet owners go on vacation, they often need to find a sitter or boarder for their pets. But those who are really into their pets may look for something even more specific. So if you offer some luxurious or upscale details like spa services, real-time streaming or private rooms, you could cater to that market.

At-Home Boarding Service Provider

Alternatively, some pet owners might feel more comfortable leaving their pets in a real home. There have even been some websites and other services that have opened up in the last few years that connect pet owners with people who will care for them in their homes.

Dog Treat Truck Owner

Gone are the days where pet owners need to go to the store to get some food or treats for their pets. Much like food trucks have grown more popular in recent years, so have dog food trucks. You just need a large enough vehicle, some food and treats and a love of dogs.

Dog Sports Competition Organizer

Many dog breeds are naturally inclined to run, jump and do various other sporting activities. So, if you enjoy physical activity and event organizing, you can set up various competitions and sporting activities for dogs in your area.

Doggie Day Care Operator

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Aside from just needing someone to watch their animals while they’re travelling, some pet owners just want somewhere for their pets to go on a more regular basis. You can open a doggie day care to serve that need.

Pet Pillow Creator

Among the many different handmade items you can sell to pet owners are customized pillows. There are plenty of different ways you can add a pet’s image to a pillow, then sell them to pet owners online or at events.

T-Shirt Designer

Or you could add pet photos or images to t-shirts or various other clothing items.

Dog Workout Coach

You already know that dog walking can be a lucrative pet business. But if you enjoy being active and want to take dog walking to another level, you could start a dog running or workout program. For dog owners who want their pets to get a bit more exercise, you can take them for runs regularly.

Pet Restaurateur

Pet restaurants, much like bakeries and food trucks, have taken off in the past few years. You can offer various food items for dogs to enjoy right there.

Homemade Pet Food Creator

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Or you could make your own dog or cat food and sell it to local pet stores, restaurants or even on your own website.

Large Animal Sitter

If you have expertise dealing with animals aside from just dogs and cats, you could offer your services to people who own larger animals. Particularly in rural areas, you might find enough people who have horses, goats and various other animals that need care on occasion.

Shelter Matching Expert

There are plenty of different ways for people to search for a new pet. Some small businesses have even created apps or websites to help match people with their ideal cats or dogs at nearby shelters.

Pet Costume Designer

Around Halloween in particular, lots of pet owners purchase costumes for their animals to wear. Making and selling pet costumes can allow you to make some really interesting and creative items.

Pet Treat Subscription Service Provider

Another way to sell pet treats and other items is by starting a subscription box. You can charge pet owners a monthly fee and send them a box each month with various items for their pets.

Pet Massage Therapists

Unusual Pet Business ideas

Massages have been shown to benefit cats, dogs and various other animals. With a bit of training, you can offer your services as a pet massage therapist.

Home Pet Monitoring Expert

If you’re good with video equipment and similar technology, you may be able to offer some at-home monitoring systems to help pet owners keep track of their animals while they’re home alone.

Delivery Service Provider

For some pet owners, going to pick up food, medicine and various other supplies can be a hassle. So you can offer them the option of getting those items delivered instead.

Pet Health Expert

While you obviously need to go to veterinary school to provide health care to animals, you may be able to offer some very basic tips when it comes to things like diet and exercise.

Pet Event Organizer

There are also lots of different pet related events that you can help plan — adoption events, dog shows and more.

Pet Spa Operator

Unusual Pet Business ideas

There are plenty of different health and beauty type services you can offer for animals. Or you could offer a more all encompassing spa experience for pets.

Brand Manager

Just as you can build a brand around yourself, you can also build one around your pets. Animals like Grumpy Cat have gained fame online and used that fame to launch books, drinks and various other products.

Pet Friendly Store or Cafe Owner

If you already own a business or have one in mind that isn’t specifically related to animals, you may be able to simply make that business pet friendly. Allow your employees or customers to bring in their pets and you’ll get to enjoy being around them without necessarily selling something specifically for them.

Pet Business Marketing Specialist

With so many different pet related business ideas out there, some might be in need of marketing services specifically to fit their niche. If you have marketing expertise, this could be an industry worth exploring.

Shocked Cat Feature Photo, Dog Treats, Cat with Toy, Cat in Cafe, Dog Bakery, Puppy Photographer, Cat in Hat, Dog Kennel, Paw in Food, Dog Massage, Dog Spa Photos via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

10 Hot Startups You’ve Never Heard Of (But Can Model Your Biz On)

10 Hot Startups You’ve Never Heard Of (But Can Model Your Biz On)

While startups like Airbnb, Dollar Shave Club, Snapchat, Uber and Dropbox get all the attention, there are thousands of other startups that deserve to be placed in the spotlight. Whether you’re a business owner or a consumer wanting to stay on top of the latest trends, here are 10 hot startups you may not have heard of but definitely should get your attention.

Here Come the Hot Startups

Adyen

Although founded in 2006, Adyen is primarily only known by so-called “payment nerds.” The payments company, which has its headquarters in Amsterdam, has gone from accepting Visa and MasterCard for eCommerce sites in Europe to incorporating more than 250 international payment methods in total, including bitcoin, Apple Pay and Alibaba’s Alipay. The company is also used by brick-and-mortar retailers that could push services such as “buy online” and “pick up in store.”

Over the last year, Adyen has attracted investors like General Atlantic and Iconiq Capital, and it is valued at above $2 billion.

CrowdStrike

Cybersecurity is a major concern for business owners. That explains why companies like J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citibank are more than willing to spend $1.5 billion to battle cyber crime.

But what if you don’t have a large IT department or millions of dollars to spend?Crowdstrike aims to fill that niche.

10 Hot Startups - CrowdStrike

The Irvine, California-based company was founded in 2011 and has made a name for itself by being able to thwart threats from happening in the first place. This is achieved using cloud-based software that looks for weak points and any signs of intrusion.

Heal

Did you know that employees who are ill cost employers $160 billion per year (PDF) because they aren’t as productive? But what if you could prevent that bug from spreading into the entire workplace by having a doctor visit your employees at home or even in the office?

That’s exactly what Heal is accomplishing. It’s an on-demand service where qualified doctors come to you anytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The app is only available in several California markets, but hopefully it will become more widespread in the near future.

Hired

One of the worst parts about the hiring process is that oftentimes the company and candidate feel like they’ve wasted each other’s time. Hired handles this problem by creating a marketplace where companies offer applicants a job after completing a selective process.

In other words, instead of applying for a job for a company, it’s the other way around. Companies interested in an individual after reviewing their profile can request an interview and submit salary and equity information before the interview even takes place.

InsideSales.com

Founded in 2004, InsideSales.com started with a $20,000 investment from founder Dave Elkington’s mother-in-law. Today the company has more than $1 billion in sales each month. As one of the first companies to use predictive analytics software, InsideSales.com asists salespeople in becoming more effective. The technology is so powerful that the company claims customers can experience revenue growth up to 30 percent in as little as 90 days.

The Utah-based company is also a strategic partner with Salesforce and Microsoft.

Karma

Are you tired of searching for a WiFi signal? Karma takes care of this issue through a pocket-sized device that converts your mobile connection into a personal WiFi signal that has upload speeds of 6 to 8 Mbps. Coverage is currently available in more than 460 cities, and when you share your signal with others in proximity, you’ll earn rewards.

Don’t worry; Karma is secure and other users will use their data, not yours.

LitBit

“(Internet of Things) isn’t a new thing, it’s a new thing and an old thing, and the challenge is bringing them together,” says LitBit Founder Scott Noteboom. With the startup’s flagship RhythmOS, LitBit can connect all your smart systems together no matter when they were made. This will make managing smart devices more convenient for everyone from homeowners to office managers.

LitBit was able to successfully raise $7 million in 2015, and with IoT incredibly hot right now, LitBit should definitely be on your radar.

Ooma

Speaking of smart devices, Ooma is a smartphone that provides crystal clear phone calls through the Internet, the ability to make free calls in the U.S., and the option to block calls from solicitors and telemarketers. You can even use the service on your smartphone via the mobile app and connect to devices like Amazon Echo, Nest and Philips Hue.

There’s also a business version that comes equipped with robust features like a virtual receptionist, conferencing and music on hold. If you’re out of the office,Ooma Office allows you to receive or make calls through your smartphone or send incoming calls directly to your voicemail.

ShipStation

If you run an online business, then you’re aware of the high costs and headaches involved with shipping. Thanks to ShipStation, however, those days are long gone.

The Austin-based company integrates with all the most popular shopping carts and marketplaces, such as eBay and Amazon, and then finds you the best deals on shipping costs. You can then generate shipping labels for leading carriers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL and OnTrac. You can even ship products from your phone and automate all your future shipping tasks.

Slidebean

Slidebean is an innovative presentation tool that makes creating slides as painless as possible. All you have to do is enter the content and the software converts the information into beautifully designed slides that are perfect for investor meetings, demo day pitches and sales presentations.

Other features include built-in stock photos, cloud storage, remote presenting and the power to collaborate with team members.

Ten Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

50 Low Tech Businesses You Can Start

low tech featured

So, you have the entrepreneurial spirit but not a lot of tech know-how? Despite all of the high-tech startups that have popped up in recent years, there are still plenty of small business options out there that don’t require you to know the difference between CSS and QR codes. Below are low tech business ideas you can start this year.

Editor’s note: watch a video featuring 10 of these non tech startup ideas.

Low Tech Business Ideas

Cleaning Business

low tech business ideas

All you need to start your own cleaning business is a stockpile of cleaning supplies and access to clients, which you can gain through word of mouth, flyers or classified ads if you don’t want to set up your own website.

Flea Market Vending

Flea markets are filled with a huge variety of different vendors. You can sell basically anything from vintage housewares to jewelry that you made yourself.

Day Care

Running a child care service out of your home just requires you to have some experience working with kids and a safe home environment to care for them throughout the day.

Lawn Mowing

You can start a business providing lawn care services to people in your area. You just need a lawnmower and a vehicle to get you from place to place.

Errand Service

Busy people could often use some help with their day-to-day tasks. Starting an errand service means you can charge people to take care of things like grocery shopping, dry cleaning and other odd jobs.

Wedding Consulting

low tech business ideas

If you enjoy planning and organizing events, you might consider starting a wedding consulting business. This mainly requires you to plan and facilitate with various vendors and service providers.

Wholesale Bakery

You could start a baking business where you create dessert items at home and sell them wholesale to local bakeries or restaurants. You’ll need to learn first about regulations in your community for commercial food preparation, however

Dog Walking Service

If you love being outside and hanging out with animals, you can put up some flyers around your community offering your services as a dog walker.

Estate Sale Service

Those who have lost loved ones or need to move and sell many of their possessions often need help setting up estate sales. If you have some knowledge about antiques and selling used items, you may be able to offer your services in this capacity.

Personal Chef Service

If you enjoy cooking but don’t necessarily want to start a whole restaurant, you could become a personal chef and prepare meals for a client or clients in their home or yours.

Food Kiosk

low tech business ideas

Whether you want to start a roadside pretzel stand or operate a taco or other food truck, there are plenty of opportunities to sell food items on a small, sometimes even mobile scale.

Pool Cleaning

Pool owners often hire professionals to keep their pools clean and ready for use throughout the summer. This requires some experience or know-how, but not much in the way of technology.

Clothing Alterations

If you have some sewing skills, you could offer your services to people who need repairs or alterations to their garments.

Car Wash

Whether you want to set up an entire car washing business or just raise some extra money on occasion, car washing can be a great money making opportunity that requires little to no tech knowledge.

Packing Service

For people who are planning to move but don’t want to go through the trouble of packing their belongings, you can offer that service to them for a fee.

House Sitting

low tech business ideas

For travelers, hiring a house sitter can offer peace of mind. And offering those services doesn’t require you to do anything tech-related, though there are some websites that let you advertise your availability.

Custom Embroidery Service

If you enjoy embroidering and have the supplies to do so, you can offer your services to people who want to add their business logo, initials, or any other details to their clothing or accessories.

Interior Decorating Service

Helping clients design and decorate their homes can be a fun business opportunity for design-oriented entrepreneurs. And though there are some online tools that can help with those processes, it isn’t as necessary as a keen eye for design.

Personal Training

If you love getting in shape and helping others do the same, you can offer your services out of your home or a local gym.

Tutoring

You can start a tutoring business that helps local students with a particular subject, test or area of study.

Personal Shopping

low tech business ideas

Clients who need some help picking out outfits or creating a budget for their purchases may be interested in the services of a personal shopper. Starting this type of service mainly just requires an interest in shopping and some fashion sense.

Recycling Service

A lot of people don’t know how or don’t want to go through the trouble of recycling large items like computers. So you could offer the service of picking up those items for a fee and taking them to the proper recycling outlets.

Pet Sitting

Travelers with pets are particularly likely to want someone to come to their home or look after their dogs or cats. You can offer this service to people you know and let your client base grow out from there.

Handyman Service

If you’re good with tools and home repairs, you can offer general handyman services to people in your area who need help with various home projects.

Home Care

Elderly people often need help with basic functions like laundry, grocery shopping and getting to and from appointments. You can offer your services as a home care provider to help them take care of some of those tasks on a regular basis.

Tour Guide Service

low tech business ideas

If you have a lot of knowledge about your local community and love sharing that knowledge with others, you can consider starting a tour guide service to show people around.

Yoga Instruction

Teaching yoga can be a rewarding career that requires little to no technology. You can teach out of a studio or even set one up in your own home.

Translation Service

Businesses, individuals and even government entities often hire translators to communicate with people in various other languages. If you are fluent in any other languages, you may be able to offer your services to different clients.

Antique Sales

You can sell various antique items at antique fairs, antique mall booths or even in your own store.

Aquarium Maintenance

People who own fish, lizards, snakes or any other animals that live in tanks or aquariums are likely to need some maintenance services at some point. If that’s the type of work you enjoy, you can provide those services in people’s homes or place of business.

Window Washing

low tech business ideas

If you enjoy being outside and cleaning, a window washing business might be the right fit for you. You just need some cleaning supplies and outdoor equipment if you plan to work on multi-story buildings.

Gardening

Another great fit for anyone who loves working outside, working as a gardener would allow you to work for residential or business clients to improve their outdoor plant life.

Event Planning

Similar to wedding coordinators, event planners work with clients to plan and organize the various aspects of their events. You can work with an even bigger array of clients by being open to the types of events you’ll work on.

Craft Fair Vending

If you can make anything from clothing to candles, you can work on creating those items in your home or workshop and then travel to different craft fairs in your community or around the world to sell them.

Childproofing Service

When people have children or even just welcome child visitors into their homes, it can help to have an expert come over to make sure that everything is safe and childproof.

Car Detailing

low tech business ideas

Car owners will pay a premium price for someone who’s able to not only wash the outside of their cars, but also clean out the entire inside from top to bottom.

Florist

Being a florist allows you to work with different flowers and plants to make arrangements that your customers will love.

Hair Stylist

If you have a cosmetology certification, you can start your own business as a hairstylist, offering cut, color and various other styling services.

Makeup Artist

Or you can work as a makeup artist, welcoming clients to your own space or even traveling to work with them.

House Painting

You can offer house painting services to clients who need interior and/or exterior work done one their homes or businesses.

Greenhouse

low tech business ideas

Love plants? You can start your own greenhouse where you care for various outdoor and houseplants and sell them to customers.

Moving Service

If you have a large vehicle and a strong team, you can offer full moving services to customers in your area.

Woodworking Service

From furniture to birdhouses, you can build a huge variety of items out of wood. Then you can sell those items to local businesses or at craft fairs or flea markets.

Canning Business

Canning allows you to preserve different types of food items so that you can ship them to customers or even sell them wholesale to local businesses.

Photo Restoration

Old photos tend to fade and show other signs of ware and tear over time. It takes some specialized expertise, but you can work to restore certain types of photos without going fully digital.

Laundry Service

low tech business ideas

For students, elderly people or even busy families, you can offer a service that helps with their regular laundry so they don’t have to worry about it.

Resume Writing

Young professionals or people who haven’t job hunted in years often look for assistance when compiling their resumes. You can offer some assistance and feedback to clients working on things like resumes and cover letters.

Soap Making

With just a few ingredients and supplies, you can make your own soap with various scents and specialties and sell them to local beauty or home stores, or even at craft events.

Nutritionist

If you have some knowledge about food and dieting, you can work with clients to give them some input on their nutrition.

Proofreading Service

You can also offer your services as a proofreader for things like articles, grants, resumes or even school assignments.

Flea Market Vinyl, Mop, Wedding, Dessert Kiosk, Man in House, Shopper, Tour Guide, Window Washer, Auto Detailing, Greenhouse, Laundry Photos via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

4 Startups Revolutionizing Small Business HR Plus One To Watch for Accounting

human resources

Is your small business still manually onboarding employees? Are you concerned about maintaining compliance with new benefits laws, like ObamaCare, or how to effectively credit 401(k) contributions? As a solopreneur myself, I know how frustrating and time-consuming it can be to sort through stacks of employee and contractor paperwork.

Put an end to the madness with an automated small business HR solution so you can spend your time running your business — not worrying about all the administrative paperwork. From Zenefits in Silicon Valley to Smart Pension LTD in London, here are the top startups that are shaking up small business HR and benefits compliance on both sides of the pond.

Small Business HR Companies

JustWorks

This hot startup recently expanded from simply offering automated payroll services to providing comprehensive HR benefits and compliance solutions that “just work” for small businesses. JustWorks manages compliance with all local, state and federal regulations, including payroll tax filing, 1099 filings, state and federal unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance. JustWorks also offers employment practice liability insurance and, for businesses with more than 50 employees, ACA compliance.

Zenefits

Despite coming under fire recently for a host of alleged poor business practices, Zenefits has still made a major impact on the world of HR and benefits compliance. Launched in early 2013, Zenefits brings together payroll, health insurance administration and compliance under a single umbrella — effectively automating all the time-consuming work that goes into managing employees from a single online dashboard. Zenefits may have become a victim of its own success, however.

Zenefits allegedly had software in place to help employees cheat on California’s online broker license courses and the New York Times recently labeled Zenefits “the defining scandal of the latest tech boom.” Despite the recent negative press, Zenefits succeeded in disrupting traditional HR, and the business is already preparing for its second act.

Smart Pension

Across the pond, British companies are shaking up the benefits compliance world, too. One to watch is Smart Pension, which streamlines auto-enrollment in various pension programs. Will Wynne, the company’s managing director, spent over a year researching, building and then testing the auto-enrollment platform.Compared with the old clunky and expensive service providers and other legacy systems that are still paper-based, Smart Pension Ltd. will be a breath of fresh air for any benefits coordinator. Smart Pension Ltd offers completely free auto-enrollment in workplace pensions. Plus, the company’s workforce assessment tool works alongside any payroll provider, eliminating the pain and cost of time-consuming pension administration.

Namely

This HR/benefits startup is based in New York City and provides an all-in-one payroll, benefits and talent management solution. Namely manages withholdings, timesheets, W-2s and more, keeping all HR data centralized and secure. While Namely lacks the robust compliance features available with Zenefits and JustWorks, users are particularly enthusiastic about Namely’s interface. Some even liken the interface to a “social media-esque” experience that makes users want to engage with it. That’s a pretty big bonus for HR staff that would otherwise be pouring over spreadsheets and manually managing data entry!

CountUp

Yes, technically CountUp is an “accountant match-making service” and not an HR/compliance platform, but it’s certainly worth including on the list of startups that are shaking up the small business HR world. CountUp is a service that links small businesses with accountants on an as-needed basis. Even if you use a service like Wave, Freshbooks or Xero, you may still need an accountant to pop in and provide a little assistance come tax time? CountUp to the rescue! The platform is entirely free to use. Simply explain your accounting needs and CountUp will match you with the correct accountant specializing in your type of small business from its curated network of independent professionals. You can auto-assign accounting tasks as they come up without ever needing to visit an accountant. CountUp also allows business owners to send photos of documents to a CPA to review on the go for real-time feedback.

Bottom Line

Compliance is a tedious but necessary task that someone has to do. There’s just no reason that someone needs to be you! Consider shifting your burden of compliance onto one of these small business HR companies and put an end to sorting through new hire reports, COBRA management, pension enrollment, and other paperwork madness.

Human Resources Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

A 30 Point Checklist for Your Startup

Startup checklist - do it now

So you want to start a business – congratulations!  Once you get over the initial excitement, it’s time to break down the process of launching your startup into manageable chunks.

You might get overwhelmed with the sheer number of items on your to-do list. But not to worry; I’ve broken down this startup checklist into the primary tasks you need to do now, and those that you can defer until later.

What You Need to Do Now

Do the following tasks either before launch or during the early days of your startup.

1. Determine viability

Be brutally honest.  Your startup needs to be something you can make a profit doing or delivering.  Ask yourself: would you buy it? Run the numbers: will customers pay enough so that you can cover costs and make a profit?   Here is a list of 29 more questions to ask, attributed to noted investor Paul Graham.

2.  Create a business plan

It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t need a business plan, but creating a business plan with financial projections forces you to think through details. Keep your plan a living breathing thing that you revisit and adapt regularly.

3.  Figure out the money

Most startups take a lot more time to get off the ground than you expect. Know where your living expenses for the first year will come from (savings, a job, spouse’s income, etc.).  If you need financing for the business start investigating as soon as possible.

4. Get family behind you

Spend time to make sure your spouse and other close family ‘buy into’ your startup.  You’ll have enough challenges without resistance from family.

5. Choose a business name

You want a name that will stick in your target audience’s heads. And it shouldn’t already be taken by another company. Do Google searches and use a corporate name search tool to see if the name you have in mind is unique. Check at the state and Federal level.

6. Register a domain name

Get a matching domain to your business name.  An AOL email address or a website with free hosting and a name like mysite.wordpress.com makes it seem like either (a) you are not running a real business or (b) you don’t plan to be around long.

7. Incorporate / figure out legal structure

Incorporating your startup can protect your personal assets. Talk over structure (corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship) with your attorney and accountant.

8. Apply for an EIN

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) helps you separate yourself from your business. You’ll need it if you plan to incorporate your business or open a business bank account.  Plus, with it you can avoid giving out your social security number (an opening  to identity theft). EIN numbers are free; apply online.

9. Investigate and apply for business licenses

You may need one, if not several, business licenses for your startup, depending on your industry and where you are located.  Most licenses are at the state or local level.  Here in the United States, the SBA has a helpful business license and permits tool.

10. Set up a website

Get your website up and running as soon as possible. Today, it’s necessary for credibility.  Even if your product is not yet built, you can start with company information.

11. Register social media profiles

Getting set up on the major social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, to start) will make marketing on them later easier. Also, it’s important to reserve your brand as a profile name. Try Knowem.com to reserve the names.

12. Start your revenue stream

Start generating revenue as soon as possible.  At the early stages of a startup there is never enough money – resist the temptation to wait until things are “perfect.” Oh, and get your lawyer to create any customer contract forms necessary.

13. Rent retail or office space

If you’ve got a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll need to sort this out early. If you plan to run a retail business, pay attention to foot traffic, accessibility, and other factors that will affect the number of people that will walk in your store. EXCEPTION: If you don’t have a brick and mortar or retail business, then hold off renting an office as long as possible to avoid saddling your startup with lease payments.

14. Order business cards

As a startup founder, you’ll be doing a lot of networking, so order plenty of business cards. They are inexpensive enough that you can reorder them later if things change. Without cards you lack credibility.

15. Open a business bank account

It’s all too easy to use your personal bank account to pay for business expenses, but it becomes a gnarl to untangle later.

16. Set up your accounting system

Once you have your bank account set up, choose an accounting program. Start as you intend to go. Few things will doom your business faster than books that are a mess.

17. Assign responsibilities to co-founders

If you have one or more founders, it’s imperative that you decide who will do what up front. Put it in writing.  Co-founder disagreements can destroy your business.

defer until later

What You Can Do A Bit Later

While you don’t want to put off these tasks too long, they don’t need to be checked off your list before you launch.

18. Upgrade your smartphone and choose apps

As an entrepreneur you are going to be on the go – a lot. I can’t emphasize enough how useful a good phone with good business apps can be, in running your startup. Get a credit card swipe device to accept payments, too.

19. Find free advice

Your local SBA office, SCORE, and other small business resources can provide you with free advice, access to business templates, and other tools.

20. Consult your insurance agent and secure coverage

Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you may need insurance of one kind or another, like liability, workers’ comp, or health insurance, especially if you hire full-time staff.

21. Hire your first employee

Depending on the type of business you have, you may need staff from day one (retail) or you may be able to outsource to  freelancers, interns, and third-party vendors for a while (service and tech businesses).   Just remember, trying to do everything yourself  takes you away from growing the business.

22. Line up suppliers and service providers

Finding a good source of inventory is crucial, especially in certain types of businesses (retail, manufacturing). Beyond inventory, line up good reliable suppliers and service providers so you don’t have to sweat the details.

23. File for trademarks and patents

The best thing to do is consult an attorney early about the need for patents, especially.  Get the advice early. Then you may be able to defer filing for a while, depending on the nature of your business.

24. Work your  network

Reach out to former co-workers and colleagues, as well as friends and family. Don’t pressure them to buy your products or services.  Instead, tap into them for introductions and help with other things on this startup checklist.

25. Don’t waste time on “partnerships” 

Be careful about wasting time on “business partnership” discussions. Your business won’t be attractive to potential partners unless and until you start making headway. Focus your precious time to make sales and get customers.

26. Refine your pitch

You need a good elevator pitch for many reasons: potential investors, customers, prospective new hires, bankers.  If you can’t persuasively and clearly pitch your business, how can you expect key stakeholders to buy in?

27. Refine your product, and marketing and sales approach

As you go along you will learn more about the marketplace.  Use customer feedback to refine your product and service offerings, and your go-to-market approach.

28. Secure your IT 

Whether you’re running a tech company or not, you likely have sensitive data on computers and devices that you want protected. Protect it from intrusions and disasters.  Back it up!  IT problems can derail a fledgling company.

29. Get a salesperson or sales team in place

In many startups the business owner starts out as the chief sales person. But to grow you need a dedicated sales function, so you can focus on activities other than day-to-day sales.

30.  Get a mentor

It’s all to easy easy to work “in” your business rather than “on” it.  As Michael Gerber tells us in The E-Myth,we need to be working “on” our businesses if we want them to grow and flourish. A mentor who has succeeded in your industry can provide you with priceless advice and serve as a sounding board.

Your checklist might be longer than this, but organizing what needs to be done before you launch and what you can take care of down the road makes it easier to prioritize your tasks.

More in: Small Business Growth

[“source-smallbiztrends”]