Small business information, insight and resources | Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:24:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Small Business Owners Think of the Trump Administration’s First 100 Days | 2017 Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:43:52 +0000

A March (2017) survey of 496 small business owners and managers by Infusionsoft, the sales and marketing management software platform, revealed a generally positive response to the business-related positions of President Trump. As the new administration draws to the end of its first 100 days, here are some of the findings from the survey.

Do federal government policies impact your business?

59% | Respondents who think federal policies are designed to help big businesses more than small businesses

What will the Trump administration mean for red tape?

40% | Believe the administration will cut red tape
19% | Believe the administration will NOT cut red tape

Will the next four years be better for your business?

92% | Believe the next four years will be better for their business than the last four years
95% | Believe there will grow during the next 1-2 years

How do these specific policy issues impact small business?

Minimum wage | 81% | Respondents who say it has NO impact

Affordable Care Act | 42% | Respondents who say it has a negative impact
Affordable Care Act | 46% | Respondents who say it has a NO negative impact

Tax rates and laws | 49% |
Respondents who say they have a negative impact
Tax rates and laws | 49% | Respondents who say they have NO negative impact

Federal and state regulations | 39% | Respondents who say they have a negative impact
Federal and state regulations | 56% | Respondents who say they have NO negative impact




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7 Small Business Quotes From Shakespeare on April 23, the Date of Both His Birth and Death Sat, 22 Apr 2017 22:00:29 +0000

But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the … sun, and that means another morning of opportunity to share some Shakespeare quotes that can be bent into great suggestions for those who own and run small businesses. Note: Like many things regarding Shakespeare, there is debate about precisely when he was born and died. We’re following the tradition of observing both his birth (1564) and death (1616) on April 23.

See also on | On The 400th Anniversary of Cervantes’ Death, The Top 35 Small Business Quotes From Don Quixote

1. To business that we love we rise betime, And go to’t with delight.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act 4, Scene 4

2. There is a tide in the affairs of men…

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3

shakespeare_portrait_-_Google_Search 2

3. Screw your courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail.

Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7

4. All things are ready if our minds be so.

Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3

shakespeare_portrait_-_Google_Search 3
5. Brevity is the soul of wit.

Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

6. Neither a borrower nor a lender be, For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

7. The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2

Also on |  Monday Morning Small Business Motivational Mashup: Goethe & Star Wars

Featured Photo: By Shadowgate via Flickr | cc-by-2.0

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8 Ways to Use Less Paper in Your Small Business | Earth Day 2017 Sat, 22 Apr 2017 13:00:16 +0000

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks paper as one of the largest components of most office waste. By eliminating paper from your office (or at least reducing it), you can significantly decrease your office supply and trash disposal bills in an earth-friendly (and cost-savings) way. Here are a few ways to use less paper in a typical small business.

1 | Pay bills online


No need to write or print paper checks. Banks and online payment systems offer secure online bill pay options. You’ll save the cost of postage, paper, and checks by paying online, as well as freeing up the time you spent doing it the old-fashioned way.

2 | Issue invoices online


(Image: Thinkstock)

Like online bill pay, paperless billing is simple — and speeds up the delivery of receivables.

3 | Set up a cloud-based file-organizing and sharing system

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 11.52.26 AM

Services like Dropbox,  Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive (and others) are paper-free ways to organize, share, and archive work-related files.

4 | Scan archival documents and add them to your cloud-based system


(Image: Thinkstock)

Get rid of all those filing cabinets by scanning old paper documents and storing them on a hard drive or, even better, on a cloud storage site. You’ll also save space and improve your ability to communicate internally and externally.

5 | Use secure online signing


(Image: OurHero via

No more need for those annoying post-it flags on print documents–DocuSign and other apps and websites provide secure ways to sign documents online. Besides reducing paper use, online signing is invaluable when deadlines are involved.

6. Use a collaborative note-sharing system

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.03.09 PM


Popular note-sharing platforms like Evernote allow users to capture and organize notes, then share them with others. You can tag and annotate notes, and organize them into notebooks for easy sharing.

7 | Go digital with calendars


(Image: Wikipedia)

An online calendar with supporting apps can easily replace a paper one. Google, Microsoft and Apple all have calendar approaches that make it easy to share an office calendar. It’s one of the easiest ways to save paper and improve office efficiency, too.

8 | Use mobile apps to scan documents, receipts and business cards

The most downloaded business apps, both Android and iOS, are variations of one function: capturing documents with your camera and organizing them in various types of folders. Use one of those apps to transfer information into other services mentioned above.

One last tip

Turn off all of those computing, scanning and storing devices when you leave the office each day.

A Dozen Benefits Employees Value Most Fri, 21 Apr 2017 12:55:55 +0000

Nearly one-third of an employee’s compensation can come in the form of benefits. While most benefits are optional for small businesses, so important are benefits to employment, Atrium Staffing, a New York City-based employment agency, surveyed its database of job seekers and found 91 percent would accept a different job if better benefits were offered, according to U.S. News in an article listing these 12 benefits valued most by employees.

1 | Health Insurance

The Kaiser Family Foundation found the average annual cost for an employer-sponsored family health insurance plan was $18,142 in 2016. Of that, employers covered $12,865 of the cost.

2 | Retirement Plan

The standard company retirement plan is a 401(k). Although these are funded largely by workers, some firms make an automatic contribution to the fund as part of a compensation package.

3 | Health Savings Account

Health savings accounts are still underutilized but provide a great value for employees. Money deposited into the account is tax-deductible. It then grows tax-free, and withdrawals used for qualified health care expenses are tax-exempt.

4 | Company Equity

Google made hundreds of people instant millionaires when the company went public in 2004. These people were workers who had been awarded stock options as part of their employment at the then startup.

5 | Employee Health Care and Assistance Services

Some companies offer screenings for early cancer detection, resources to treat chronic conditions or free gym memberships. Other employee-assistance programs offer free counseling, legal services or financial planning.

6 | Parental Leave

Parental leave can be a significant benefit both financially and emotionally. Current U.S.  maternity leave policy is regulated by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) which includes a provision mandating 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children. Some states have additional requirements. Small businesses are typically not covered by these regulations or guidelines.

7 | Paid Time Off

While paid vacations are not required, companies who need skilled workers have determined the return-on-investment in vacations can be worth it. In fact, some companies like Netflix have placed a high emphasis on individual performance, they let employees determine their own work and vacation schedules. With such freedom comes accountability, however. At Netflix, employees earn the perks they enjoy.

8 | Career or Personal Development

Career development sessions give workers the chance to gain skills and knowledge needed to further their careers.

9 | Tuition Reimbursement or Loan Repayment

Talent experts say loan repayment will be increasingly rolled out. Forward-thinking companies are doing that because they see young people suffocating under their student loans.

10 | College Savings Accounts

Although employers don’t often make contributions to “529” college savings accounts on behalf of workers, merely offering payroll deductions for the plans can be valuable.

11 | Parking

In Los Angeles, parking can cost up to $400 a month.

12 | Food

Complimentary meals have long been a mainstay at startups. Others have food brought in weekly.



Photos: istock

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What it Takes for a Business to Thrive in the Era of Customer Experience Thu, 20 Apr 2017 20:49:38 +0000

You may think that social marketing is all about platforms and tools and photos and likes — and networks. But according to the chairman of the world’s largest networking company, John Chambers of Cisco Systems, “social marketing” is about customer experience; about having a business culture that has a core-level emphasis on providing the best customer experience possible. And what is the key to such a culture? It must start and the top with the owner or CEO.

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Cisco Chairman and former CEO John Chambers speak to 700 social marketers attending the Sprinklr Summit. The audience was filled with men and women who run the social marketing efforts at many of the nation’s best-known and successful brands. However, after hearing Chambers, there was a lot of hallway chatter among the all-star marketers about how far their companies need to go to truly embrace a culture that can transform their relationships with customers.

According to Chambers, the companies that thrive in this new order will be those that don’t see technology as mere tools for gaining likes or generating leads. The companies that thrive will be those with a top-down belief that their companies’ entire reason for being is to ensure customers have an unmatchable good customer experience with their company.

Cisco Chairman John Chambers | (Photo:

Chambers stressed that small businesses are so close to their customers that providing the best experience to customers should come naturally. And if you look out over the next couple of decades, “small businesses are going to be the primary creators of net new jobs,” Chambers said. The small businesses who grow will be those that embrace the belief that nothing about their business is more important than them providing their customers with an unmatched experience, he said.

Chambers said social marketing and customer care should not be thought of as separate functions. They are the same thing and are at the core of the company’s culture. The technology that enables social media is in its infancy; often frustrating and disconnected. But with the right type of business leadership that is dedicated to providing an unmatched customer experience, you can change your company’s culture today, he said.

And what is the “return on investment” for fully focusing your company on building longterm, deep relationships with customers? According to Chambers, a 5 percent rate of customer retention will translate into 75 percent increase in profitability.

Another metric to consider, said Chambers, is that 80 percent of your future income will be generated by 20 percent of your current customers.

Rex Hammock is the founder of
A version of this article appeared on Idea Blog.

Photos: istock,

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Places on the Web Where You Can Find Free Typographical Fonts Wed, 19 Apr 2017 23:51:27 +0000

In the Guide to Marketing with Photograph, we feature several sources of free, open-source or Creative Commons licensed photos that are helping small businesses improve the quality of their design without violating the intellectual property rights of the creators. There are several business reasons why creators share their work freely, but an easy one to understand is a marketing practice we’re all familiar with: Sampling. Giving away a few examples of ones creative work is perhaps the most common way to reach a larger audience that can lead to custom work or paid usage. (If you want to learn more about the topic of “free” pricing, here’s where to download a free copy of the book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price.)

Our friend and publisher of, Khoi Vinh, is seeing a similar trend with free typographical fonts. One obvious source of free-to-use fonts is Google Fonts, the directory of over 800 fonts hosted by Google. But don’t stop there. Vinh says that designer Jeremiah Shoaf’s monthly mailing called Typewolf’s Definitive Guide to Free Fonts surfaces the best of recent free font releases. “Some are quite well executed (while others are merely passable),” notes Khoi.

“We are seeing more-and-more free font releases that are suitable for professional design,” Shoaf says. Here are several of the best free fonts Shoaf has identified during the past couple of years.


A calligraphic sans-serif that was selected as one of Typographica’s favorite typefaces of last year.

Space Mono

A monospaced typeface designed by Colophon Foundry.

Sample of Work Sans Font

Work Sans

A sans from Wei Huang inspired by early grotesques.

Sample of Work Sans Font


A refined Garamond created for display use rather than text like traditional Garamonds.

What does this mean for the market of paid typefaces?

When this question was asked to Shoaf by Khoi, he responded, “I think free fonts and commercial fonts can co-exist peacefully.” He believes free fonts are raising the bar for typography in general and stoking demand for more distinctive, paid fonts.



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Business Owners Say This is What They Learned From Their Parents Tue, 18 Apr 2017 21:34:50 +0000 Online lending company Funding Circle recently conducted a survey* of over 1,000 business owners to learn more about their relationships with their parents. Here are some of their findings.

A strong work ethic is the #1 skill business owners say they learned from their parents.

74% | Learned strong work ethic from their dads
67% | Learned strong work ethic from their moms

49% | Learned confidence from their dads
41% | Learned confidence from their moms

40% | Learned resilience from dads
40% | Learned resilience from moms

Investments from parents not typical

Cross-generational family businesses are common throughout American history up to the current economy. However, when it comes to an off-spring seeking startup capital from a parent, small business owners indicate it’s rare.

72% | Business owners who never borrowed money for their business from a parent.

*Funding Circle Small Business Survey, March 2017. A total of 1,377 U.S. small business owners completed the survey between March 1-13, 2017.

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The Only New System You’ll Ever Need Mon, 17 Apr 2017 21:43:51 +0000

Author and Zen Habits Publisher Leo Babauta observes that most of us are constantly looking or the Perfect System:

  • The perfect morning routine
  • The perfect system for dealing with email
  • The perfect system for productivity, to end procrastination
  • The perfect system for finances or building wealth
  • The perfect system for learning anything
  • The perfect system for being mindful, getting fit, losing weight, decluttering, building new habits, being a parent, building a new career, and on and on

Why do we feel so in need of a new system?

  • Does your day feel chaotic, overwhelming, uncontrolled? Then you try to address that chaos by finding a perfect system.
  • Are you entering a new, scary area in your life? Then you try to find out how others conquered the uncertainty of this area, what their perfect system was. You’d probably be willing to pay hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, for their perfect system.
  • Are you overwhelmed by email, social media, finances, habits, diet and exercise, clutter, and more? Then you try to deal with the chaos and uncertainty of all of that by buying a book, a program, a course that teaches you the perfect system.

According to Babauta,
all such systems are actually
addressing the same root problem:

When new systems don’t work, we search for something we absolutely know how to do.…like watching TV, checking Facebook or playing games.

But doing the easy stuff and running from the fear doesn’t work. We still have uncertainty, but we try to ignore it, remove it with the distractions. Soon our system is crushed by uncertainty, fear, discomfort, and running from difficulties.

Babauta’s Perfect System to Crush All Others

Notice when you are looking for certainty from a system, course, book, and so on. that you are feeling uncertainty; That you are trying to find certainty.

Say to yourself,

“Certainty is the enemy of awesome.
Uncertainty is the fuel for an amazing life.”

  • Repeat it until you believe it.
  • Say it with gusto, zest and verve!
  • Yell it out loud until your neighbors look up from their phones in dismay!
  • Resolve yourself to not run from uncertainty like a coward, but to face it like a warrior.
  • Stay with the feeling of fear and uncertainty.
  • Laugh at the discomfort in derision, laugh at its pathetic attempts at making you flee.
  • Push further into uncertainty and fear by doing whatever you are afraid of.
  • Feel the fear.
  • Feel the uncertainty.
  • Feel it transforming you into a powerful being, trembling with the discomfort of being amazing and delicious.

Then push into new uncertain territory,
feeling the groundlessness of growth and learning and fearlessness.

You no longer need to run.

You can stay in courage and awesomeness.

You no longer need to find certainty or answers or systems.

VIA |, The Perfect System | Used with permission

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How to Turn Your Doodles Into Drawings Using Google’s New AutoDraw Tool Mon, 17 Apr 2017 15:48:30 +0000

We’ve never hidden our envy of admiration for people who can draw quickly — and actually get their message across. We’ve even devoted an entire guide to helping people get over their belief that they can’t draw (on a whiteboard). Perhaps that’s why we are impressed to see that some folks at Google have come up with a drawing program called AutoDraw, a web-based tool lets you doodle your version of a drawing, but then provides you the option of substitute a real drawing created by talented artists for your doodle.

It works like this:

  1. Go to
  2. Doodle the item you’d like to draw
  3. Keep your eye on the bar of sketches above the drawing panel
  4. Whey you see a suggestion that matches what you were doodling, click on it

We doubt that made much sense. So, let’s do a “picture is worth a thousand words”: Watch in the GIF below how a user’s doodle generates a bar of suggested objects. Click on one and bang, you have a drawing.

How do they do that?

It’s a project of Google’s Artificial Intelligence team. Google is using machine learning to determine what objects users mean in their doodles. When enough of us who aren’t great drawers let Google’s computers know what we really mean is “lightening” when we draw our squiggly lines, Google’s computers can start suggesting lightening as a possibility to others who doodle like me.
Currently, the number and types of pictures in the tool are limited. But as more illustrators (the real kind) start allowing samplings of their illustrations to be contributed to the pool of “real” art, there could be millions to choose from. (You may wonder, “why an artist would contribute drawings?” The answer: As a portfolio sampling of the custom work they can be commissioned to create.)

AutoDraw Promotional Video from Google

Google’s AutoDraw is coming at a time when traditional stock art services are using more tech-driven approaches to help users find the photos and illustrations they want. For example, has recently introduced a “search by image” feature that works like  Google’s image search feature. Upload an image and the service will suggest images in its database that are similar to the image uploaded.

iStock’s new image search feature.


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Seven Last-Minute Tax Filing Tips From the IRS | 2017 Mon, 17 Apr 2017 15:00:31 +0000

Because the weekend shifts the observance of Emancipation Day (typically 4.16) to today (4.17.2017) in Washington, DC, we all have until Tuesday night at midnight, April 18, to file our tax return. The IRS recommends that you not panic if you haven’t done your taxes yet. However we’re guessing that panic is the only motivation left that works with people who are waiting until now to start working on their tax returns. Here are some tips from the IRS for procrastinators.

1 | Don’t delay (anymore)

Don’t wait until Tuesday night at 11:30 to do your taxes. If you rush to beat the deadline, you may miss out on tax savings or make a mistake. An error may delay your refund and could cause the IRS to send you a letter.

2 | File free

Use IRS Free File.  If you made $62,000 or less, you can use free tax software to do your taxes and e-file. If you made more, you can use Free File Fillable Forms. These are electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Free File will also help with the reporting requirements for the Affordable Care Act.

3 | Use IRS e-file

No matter who does your taxes, you should file them using IRS e-file. It’s the safe, easy and accurate way to file your tax return. You’re 20 times less likely to make a mistake when you e-file compared to filing a paper return. Tax software catches and corrects common paper filing errors. It also will alert you to tax credits and deductions you may otherwise miss.

4 | Visit

Go online for tax information and resources. The Interactive Tax Assistant, Tax Trails and IRS Tax Map are useful question and answer resources.

5 | File on time

If you owe taxes but can’t pay by the April due date, you should still file on time and pay as much as you can. This will reduce potential penalties and interest charges. If you can’t pay all the tax you owe, you may apply for an installment agreement. The easy way to apply is to use the Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request.

6 | File an extension (but, you’ll still have to pay any taxes you owe on April 18)

If you’re not ready to file by April 18, you can get an automatic six-month extension. You can e-file your extension request for free using IRS Free File. If you owe tax, you can request your extension when you make a payment with Direct Pay, Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by debit or credit card and select Form 4868 as the payment type. You may also file using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Make sure to e-file or mail the form and pay an estimate of any tax due by the April due date.

7 | File to reconcile Advance Payments of the Premium Tax Credit

You must file a tax return and submit Form 8962 to reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit with the actual premium tax credit to which you are entitled. You will need Form 1095-A from the Marketplace to complete Form 8962. Filing your return without reconciling your advance payments will delay your refund and may affect future advance credit payments.


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