Small business information, insight and resources | Mon, 18 Jun 2018 17:06:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Compete with Walmart: Sam Walton’s Ten Rules for Building a Business #MondayMotivation Mon, 18 Jun 2018 17:00:48 +0000

No doubt, Walmart founder Sam Walton (1918 – 1992) helped turn many smalltown Main Streets into ghost towns. At the same time, certain small businesses figured out how to benefit from the arrival of the retailing giant. Sam Walton even created a game plan small businesses can follow when up against any competitor.

Walton believed running a successful business can be boiled down to ten simple rules. He believed in these principles so much, he made them a part of Walmart’s brand, mission, and culture. But unlike the secret ingredients of Coca-Cola, Walton didn’t think his recipe for success should be locked up in a vault. The company he started even promotes the ten steps on its website for all the world to see. “We continue to apply them to every part of our business,” says the company’s website where you can find the following.


Sam Walton’s Ten Rules for Building a Business

1 | Commit to your business

Believe in it more than anybody else. If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you – like a fever.

2 | Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners

In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.

3 | Motivate your partners (employees)

Money and ownership alone aren’t enough. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score. Don’t become too predictable.

4 | Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners

The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them.

5 | Appreciate everything your associates do for the business

Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free – and worth a fortune.

6 | Celebrate your success

Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up. Have fun. Show enthusiasm – always. All of this is more important, and more fun, than you think, and it really fools competition.

7 | Listen to everyone in your company

And figure out ways to get them talking. To push responsibility down in your organization, and to force good ideas to bubble up within it, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.

8 | Exceed your customers’ expectations

Give them what they want — and a little more. Make good on all your mistakes, and don’t make excuses — apologize. Stand behind everything you do.

9 | Control your expenses better than your competition

This is where you can always find the competitive advantage. You can make a lot of different mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you’re too inefficient.

10 | Swim upstream

Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction.

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Why the Bureau of Labor Statistics Estimate of Gig Economy Workers Does’t Add Up Tue, 12 Jun 2018 19:56:25 +0000

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a survey (the 2017 Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangement (CWS) survey) that seems to contradict everything you’ve heard about the growth of the gig economy and independent contract workers. Rather than findings like the recent Federal Reserve study that estimates 31 percent of adult Americans engage in alternative (or independent) work, the BLS reported that only ten percent do. So what gives? To find out, we turned to Steve King, a partner in Emergent Research and a regular contributor to

Against a mountain of research with different findings, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the flexible working arrangements that go by various terms (on-demand, contingent, alternative, sharing, gig, independent, solo, etc.) Specifically, the report shows that the share of independent workers in the U.S. workforce was slightly smaller than they reported the last time the survey was done, which was 13 years ago.

They also found that only about 10.1% of Americans engage in alternative (independent) work. This, of course, is much lower than what pretty much every other survey or study done on the gig economy over the past 5 years has found.

So what’s going on?

When reviewing gig economy studies, different studies use different economy definitions. This leads to very different results. This is true for this study.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses a too narrow definition of alternative work arrangements

  1. The CWS survey only includes people whose sole or primary job is independent. This excludes the millions of people who do gig work as moonlighters or as a second job.
  2. The CWS also excludes, because of their definition of an independent contractor, independent workers who aren’t in the services industry. So, for example, independent workers who have an Etsy or Amazon store, or any kind of product-based business are excluded – even if it’s their primary source of income.

According to the technical note in their release, because of their definition of independent contractor, only three in five of those who are self-employed are included in their number. This means they exclude about 4-5 million people who are included in almost all other surveys on independent work.


In one way, we agree with the BLS. That’s because we’ve long held that independent work is not going to replace traditional jobs as most people’s primary source of income.

But because of their narrow definition, we believe their survey understates the size, scope and growth of independent work. And by only asking about primary jobs, the CWS fails to address a major economic issue, which is why so many Americans are turning to 2nd jobs and alternative sources of income. Our biggest concern is the CWS results will lead many to conclude work, jobs and the workforce are not changing.

Vintage portable cashier adding machine

The Need for BLS regular and broader research on alternative work

Like others (see this article by Aspen Institute or this article by Samaschool) we urge Congress to provide the BLS the funds to conduct regular and broader research on this topic. We also recommend those interested in the gig economy/alternative work visit Aspen’s Gig Economy Hub and review the other studies on the gig economy.

Thanks to | Steve King,


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How Americans Are Shopping Online | 2018 Mon, 11 Jun 2018 18:59:26 +0000

No doubt about it: Americans are big-time online shoppers, according to a new survey by NPR and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. And by “online shoppers,” most shoppers mean But just because they’ve bought things online doesn’t mean Americans are turned off by shopping at small retailers or brick and mortar stores of any size. Most of those who have shopped online say they prefer shopping in a brick and mortar store. Here are some highlights of the findings of the survey. 


Ecommerce keyboard

69% | Percentage of Americans who have purchased an item online

56% | Percentage of online shoppers who say they prefer to shop in a brick and mortar store
37% | Percentage of online shoppers who say they prefer to shop online

43% | Percentage of Americans who say they are regular online shoppers

2% | Shop online daily
16% | Shop online weekly
25% | Shop online monthly

For many, shopping online means buying from

63%  | Percentage of Americans who say they have bought an item through Amazon
92% | 63% of Americans = 92% of all online shoppers

Amazon shoppers trust the company with their personal information

67% | Percentage of online consumers report having either a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Amazon to protect their privacy and personal information.

Trust of online retailers, in general

52% | Percentage of online consumers who don’t have very much, or no confidence at all, in most online retailers to keep consumers’ personal data secure.

Reasons shoppers give for shopping online instead of making an in-store purchase

88% | The ease in which one can find the product for which they are looking
84% | Saving time
84% | The breadth of product choices
78% | Lack of lines and people
78% | Availability of product reviews by other shoppers
76% | Cheaper prices

Online shoppers avoid paid shipping

90% | Percentage of online shoppers who prefer free shipping even if an item takes longer to arrive.

Brands aren’t dead, but the brand requires greater effort to rise above the noise of so many product choices.

73% | Online shoppers who say they set out looking for a particular brand
18% | are more likely to just be guided by a recommendation from the online retailer.

Brand vs. Deal

When asked about what motivates their choice of products purchased online, the survey participants split their response.

48% | Are more concerned with getting the best deal
47%  | Are more concerned with getting a specific brand.

What shoppers have purchased online

When provided with a list of products, survey respondents say they have purchased these types of products

58% | (Percentage of survey respondents who say they have purchased…) clothes or shoes
48% | (…) Electronics such as TV’s, computers, speakers, or headphones
26% | (…)  Vitamins or supplements
19% | (…) Pet food or supplies
19% | (…) Household basics such as batteries, toothpaste, or garbage bags
18% | (…) Pharmacy basics such as over-the-counter medicines or lotion
14% | (…) Non-perishable groceries
12% | (…) Prescription drugs and health products such as contact lenses

The most expensive item a shopper has purchased online

Online shoppers surveyed say that the most expensive item they have purchased was between…

22% | $100-$249
21% | $250-$499
18% | $500-$999
18% | $1,000-$2,500


More findings:

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What Millennial Business Owners Are Doing That Makes Their Workplaces Safer | 2018 Thu, 07 Jun 2018 15:27:38 +0000

With nearly 13,000 American workers injured each day, establishing a safety program should be a priority for every business. But most small business safety efforts lack formal planning and training, according to Nationwide’s fourth annual Business Owner Survey released on Wednesday (June 6, 2018).

The use of emerging technology to improve workplace safety is significantly more prevalent in businesses with Millennial-age owners

32% | Percentage of all business owners using various types of technology to improve workplace safety
71% | Percentage of Millennial-age business owners using various types of technology to improve workplace safety

Comparative (all business owners vs. Millennial-age owners) look at specific types of technology for improving workplace safety

Building sensors | Devices that detect humidity, temperature, water leaks and equipment failure

16% | Percentage of all business owners using this technology
36% | Percentage of Millennial business owners using this technology

Wearables | Watches, belts and other personal sensors that can detect physical strain

13% | Percentage of all business owners using this technology
32% | Percentage of Millennial business owners using this technology

Drones | Commercial drones used to reach or inspect areas that otherwise are dangerous for workers

7% | Percentage of all business owners using this technology
21% | Percentage of Millennial business owners using this technology

Vehicle telematics | Technology that can help reduce distracted driving

11% | Percentage of all business owners using this technology
20% | Percentage of Millennial business owners using this technology

Ways to improve workplace safety programs and reduce overall expenses

  • Employ or identify a person who is charged with the company’s safety and implementing safety-related initiatives.
  • Provide formal safety training to all employees on a regular basis.
  • Implement a formal return-to-work program to help injured employees get back to meaningful work as soon and as safely as possible.

“While technology can enhance workplace safety, it’s not a panacea,” said Mark McGhiey, associate vice president of Nationwide’s Loss Control Services, the sponsor of the survey. “There’s always going to be an element of human-driven effort to ensure workers can do their jobs safely and efficiently.


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Vermont Reimbursing Remote Workers $10,000 for Relocating to the Green Mountain State Wed, 06 Jun 2018 02:25:32 +0000

We’ve all seen how state and local governments often throw huge amounts of money at large corporations that will agree to move their headquarters or a factory to a city or state. has even turned such a decision-making process into a year-long media event during which some states bid billions for a second headquarters of the company.

But what about small states that don’t have the resources to incentives necessary to compete for such large enterprises? Vermont thinks it has a better idea.
To help address the state’s rapidly shrinking tax base, Vermont is attempting a new spin on the conventional industrial planning approach: It is paying people who currently work remotely for non-Vermont employers relocation expenses of $10,000 over two years if they will move to Vermont.

Why is Vermont willing to pay relocation expenses for remote workers who will move to the state?

  • The state has a rapidly shrinking tax base
  • Vermont is aging faster than the rest of the U.S. population
  • Remote workers can work from any location and Vermont is a beautiful place to live

You better act quickly, however

  • The first-come, first-served remote worker grants are only available to new residents who relocate on or after Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Vermont has budgeted grants for about 100 new remote workers in the first three years of the program and about 20 additional workers per year for every year after.

Perhaps, there’s a better way to attract more remote workers — and small business owners along Main Street

We’re big fans of Vermont. Four seasons a year. Heck, even one of our favorite small business movies was set in Vermont, Baby Boom.

But we think a plan that attracts only 300 workers over three years may not be the solution you’re looking for. Again, we love you Vermont, but if you want to get your economy bustling, you’ll probably find the answer in the chart below.

Overall Tax Burden by State (Top Ten Most Burdensome)
Source: WalletHub

Total Tax Burden
State Total Tax Burden
Property Tax Burden
Individual Income Tax Burden
Total Sales & Excise Tax Burden
1 New York 13.04% 4.62% 4.78% 3.64%
2 Hawaii 11.57% 2.20% 2.85% 6.52%
3 Maine 11.02% 4.80% 2.69% 3.53%
4 Vermont 10.94% 5.20% 2.32% 3.42%
5 Minnesota 10.37% 3.00% 3.70% 3.67%
6 Connecticut 10.19% 4.17% 3.34% 2.68%
7 Rhode Island 10.14% 4.70% 2.31% 3.13%
8 Illinois 10.08% 4.11% 2.44% 3.53%
9 New Jersey 10.02% 5.12% 2.46% 2.44%
10 California 9.57% 2.66% 3.65% 3.26%


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Most Small Business Owners, Employees Admit Knowing Little About Their Retirement Plan Fees | 2018 Mon, 04 Jun 2018 15:43:43 +0000

The majority of U.S. small business owners, managers and workers say they have only a limited knowledge of the fees paid to manage their company-sponsored retirement plans, according to surveys released last month by the Pew Charitable Trust. Having limited knowledge about such fees can be detrimental to the long-term finances of both employers and employees.

19% | Percentage of small business owners and managers who said they were “very familiar” with their retirement plan fees
34% | Said they were “not at all familiar” with those fees.
31% | Said they were not familiar at all with the fees.

Why it is important to know about your retirement plan’s fees

Earlier research by Pew showed that leaders of many small businesses may not offer retirement plans because their companies lack the administrative capacity to do so.

Increasing awareness among employers and workers about the impact of fees on long-term savings will probably improve retirement security more broadly.

Finding ways to help these decision-makers analyze and compare features, such as fees, could encourage more to sponsor plans, according to the Pew Charitable Trust’s John Scott and Sarah Spell, authors of the report. 

Officials are taking steps to increase transparency of fees

Federal officials have recently taken steps to increase transparency and make the details easier to comprehend. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor in 2012 set standards for financial services companies that provide defined contribution plans, such as 401(k). Those standards require such firms to present fees more uniformly: as a percentage of assets and as a dollar amount for each $1,000 invested.

See |  U.S. Department of Labor’s “Understanding Your Retirement Plan Fees



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Small Business Owners are Really, Really Optimistic | 2018 Q2 Thu, 31 May 2018 16:30:04 +0000

Along with previously-reported record high levels of small business optimism from NFIB (which has tracked small business optimism monthly since the 1980s), and the recent record high level of optimism by small business owners found by JP Morgan Chase, today there is even more research confirming those previous findings (and the findings before those, etc.). So, if it has not sunk in, the bottom line for the second quarter of 2018  is this: Small business owners are very optimistic.

Update #1 | (Friday, June 1, 2018) In its May employment statistics released on Friday, June 1, 2018, the U.S. Bureaur of Labor Statistics reported that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in May, and the unemployment rate edged down to 3.8 percent. Employment continued to trend up in several industries, including retail trade, health care, and construction.

Update #2 | (Friday, June 1, 2018) Record high levels of small business owners are reporting increased employee compensation and hiring numbers continue to grow, according to NFIB’s monthly Jobs Report.

35% | Seasonally adjusted net increase in labor compensation as owners try to attract needed employees and retain those already on board.
58% | Percentage of small business respondents indicated they are hiring or trying to hire, up one point in the past month and five points since the March report.
83% | Small business owners who reported there are few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.

“While the small business economy is showing tremendous growth, difficulty finding qualified workers continues to be a notable issue,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Temporary workers are filling some of these vacancies, but an increased availability of qualified workers would lead to more growth in employment.”


MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index

Today’s research findings come from the quarterly tracking research commissioned by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Overview of findings

66% | (Percentage of) Small business owners who are optimistic about their company and the small business environment in the United States.

62% | Small business owners who expect higher earnings and an increase in revenue one year from now.

18% | Small business owners who say they are increasing staff compared to the past year

79% | Small business owners who say they feel comfortable with cash flow.

Variations in responses from Female and Male-owned small business

51% | (Percentage of) Female small business owners reporting good overall health of their business
64% | Male small business owners reporting good overall health of their business

70% | (Percentage of) Female small owners are comfortable with their current cash flow
83% | Male small business owner are comfortable with their current cash flow

65% | (Percentage of) Female small business owners expecting higher revenue in the next 12 months
61% | Male small business owners expecting higher revenue in the next 12 months

36% | (Percentage of) Female small business owners anticipating hiring growth in the next 12 months
30% | Male small business owners anticipating hiring growth in the next 12 months

30% | (Percentage of) Female business owners expecting greater increase in investment in coming months
28% | Male business owners expecting greater increase in investment in coming months


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Why Don’t Employees Use All of Their Paid Vacation Days? | 2018 Mon, 28 May 2018 21:36:01 +0000

In the U.S., the last Monday of May (May 28, 2018, this year) is Memorial Day, a national holiday honoring members of the military whose lives were lost in service to their nation. Unofficially, the day has also become the beginning of the summer vacation season. However, according to recent research commissioned by TSheets by QuickBooks, 32 percent of U.S. workers are reluctant to use all of their vacation days, saying they feel pressured not to take time off.

Having paid vacations vs. taking paid vacations

Most workers have access to paid time off, but many of them don’t use the full allocation of paid vacation provided.

84% | Percentage of workforce that currently has access to paid time off
65% | Percentage of workers with paid time off who don’t use their full allocation of days (in 2017)

18% | Percentage of those who don’t use full allocation of vacation days who blame their workload.
$573,694,800 | Estimated value of employee time off that is not used

While on vacation, most people do some work

60% | Percentage of employees who took time off but did some work while they were on vacation.
48% | Percentage of employees who believe they do not get enough time off

What do employees want? More time off vs. higher pay

74% | Percentage of employees who say they would prefer a higher salary than more paid time off
39% | Percentage of employees who say they would accept a job without paid time-off

Stressed out employees need vacation days, but often don’t take them

43% | Percentage or workers reporting they are “often” or “always” stressed
33% | Percentage of employees who say the stress they experience at work is detrimental to their health

51% | Percentage of employees who have taken time off due to stress, however many of the workers surveyed have used false reasons with (translation: lied to)  their manager for taking off the time.

Workers report that they have used false reasons for taking time off, rather than the actual cause

15% | Percentage of workers who avoided using insomnia as a reason
13% | Mental health
12% | Physical health
7% | A hangover

Going to work sick

89% | Percentage of employees who have come to work sick
19% | Percentage of employees who admit doing this more than once a month
11% | Never come to work sick.

The paid-leave benefits employees want most

91% | Paid holidays
88% | Sick leave
87% | Paid vacation day

Older workers get most paid time off, but are least likely to use it

57% | Percentage of workers 55 years old and over who receive 11 days of  paid time or more
52% | Percentage of workers 18-24 years-old who receive five days of paid time or less


Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Made the Final Sacrifice; Hiring Those Who Served Sun, 27 May 2018 11:00:24 +0000

In the U.S., the last Monday in May is Memorial Day, a federal holiday for remembering and honoring the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. During this Memorial Day weekend, we encourage those who have some well-deserved time off from work, to spend some time in reflecting upon the sacrifice made by so many while in service to their country.

Honoring the Fallen, Helping All Those Who Serve

While Memorial Day (honoring those who died in the line of duty) is sometimes confused with Veterans Day (November 11, honoring all those who have served in the armed forces), we think it is appropriate—and not confusing, at all—to honor and support military veterans. And as a small business, one of the best ways to display that is to hire veterans who, as we’ve noted, make great employees.

In the Guide to Resources for Military Veterans, you will find links to resources that will help you find and recruit veterans. And veterans can find links to resources for veterans who want to start a business.

We honor our military veterans today, and throughout the year. And we especially honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

Why are Some U.S. Small Business Websites Subject to European Privacy Regulations? Wed, 23 May 2018 12:51:02 +0000

Friday is May 25, 2018. Do you know where your General Data Protection Regulation compliant privacy policy is? Do you even know what that means? Don’t feel alone. Most internet users in the U.S. had little, if any, idea that European Union regulations had anything to do with them until our email inboxes started clogging up with new privacy policies. Fortunately, someone who thought we might understand it better if it was explained with American football metaphors came up with this clever info-video.

What is the GDPR all about?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a long list of requirements that businesses in the European Union must follow to be clearer about the information they collect and use from their users or customers. Another purpose of the GDPR is to impose a uniform data security law on all EU nations so that each member state will no longer need to write its own data protection laws.

Why should websites not in the EU care about the GDPR?

On the internet, it’s easy for customers from one region to use services and purchase products in other countries. Because internet users are just a click away from EU based websites and services, many American companies have up-dated their privacy policies to adhere to GDPR requirements.

For example, Shopify created an extensive guide for the online retailers who use its software. They also created a helpful “Privacy Policy Generator” someone can use to create a privacy policy that is GDPR compliant. (Note: The generator is not legal advice, just a place to start. Run any changes by your attorney.)

Bottom line: If you sell goods, products or services to internet users in the EU, you should update your privacy policies. Even if you don’t sell things in the EU, it’s probably a good thing to review your policies and start following them.

The privacy rights EU internet users will have beginning May 25

Here are some specific items covered in the GDPR (via: CNBC):

  • Consumers will have a right to be informed about the collection of their information.
  • People will also have the right to access their information and companies much provide it within a month. If any data is inaccurate, companies must correct it.
  • Consumers have the “right to be forgotten” — and data can be purged. They can also ask for their data to be restricted: companies can store data but not use it.
  • People will be able to move or copy personal information from one source to another, known as data portability.
  • Consumers will have the right to object about how their data is used — including for direct marketing.
  • They can object to profiling when companies automatically process data to make assumptions about a person for marketing.

Some of the key privacy and data protection requirements of the GDPR include:

  • Requiring the consent of customers for data processing
  • Anonymizing collected data to protect privacy
  • Providing data breach notifications
  • Safely handling the transfer of data across borders
  • Requiring certain companies to appoint a data protection officer to oversee GDPR compliance

In addition to EU members, any company that markets goods or services to EU residents, regardless of its location, is subject to the regulation. As a result, GDPR will have an impact on data protection requirements globally.