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1. Happy Days are Here Again, part 1

There’s a lot of optimism going around in the world of small business. Here’s the first of three reports that indicate things are picking up. The Wells Fargo/Gallup survey shows small business owners are the most optimistic they’ve been since 2008.

According to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index:

  • 71 percent of small business owners expect their overall financial situation to be very or somewhat good over the next 12 months.
  • 26 percent plan to hire in 2015
  • 29 percent expect to increase the amount of money they allocate for capital spending.
  • 51 percent expect their company’s revenues to increase
  • 31 percent expect their operating environment to be better in 2015

 

That’s not to say small business owners aren’t worried. They have concerns about:

  • 22 percent are worried about not being able to pay their employees
  • 7 percent are very worried about going out of business
  • 14 percent say attracting customers and new business is a top concern
  • 9 percent are concerned about government regulations
  • 3 percent are worried about the financial stability of their business

 

Health insurance is a topic that interests many small business owners.

  • 88 percent of small business owners currently have health insurance for themselves and their families
  • 25 percent plan to offer health insurance options for their employees

WF-Gallup-SBI-4Q14-content-rev12. Happy Days are Here Again, part 2

ShopKeep, a cloud-based iPad POS technology, just released findings from its first quarterly ShopKeep Small Business Index, showing 68 percent of those surveyed are optimistic about this holiday season. Other notable findings include:

  • 78 percent expect seasonal sales to be better than or the same as last year
  • 81 percent of those planning to hire seasonal employees will hire between 1-3 people
  • 84 percent had strong third quarters heading into the holiday season
  • 31 percent will extend their holiday hours to accommodate additional traffic

But many (63 percent) of business owners are concerned about the security of their customers’ credit or debit card information, but they were also confident in the security solutions that ShopKeep provides.

infog cropped

To see more of this infographic, click here.

3. Happy Days are Here Again, part 3

This optimistic outlook also shows up in a holiday survey by Ink from Chase. The survey found 40 percent of business owners expect better sales this holiday season. The reasons:

  • 61 percent say there’s increased consumer demand
  • 45 percent have improved their marketing campaigns
  • 49 percent plan to use social promotions to reach customers
  • 40 percent credit expanded e-commerce and mobile/online sales efforts

 

Many small businesses plan to take on big businesses by:

  • Fulfilling special requests/orders—62 percent
  • Personally reaching out to customers—58 percent
  • Creating customized shopping experiences—49 percent
  • Offering exclusive products—44 percent
  • Offering extended payment options—20 percent

 

4. Email Amps Up

Email volume usually increases during the holidays. But this year is setting records, at least at Constant Contact. The company reports the number of emails sent to customers this past Cyber Monday was the most ever sent from its servers in one day.

Interestingly, the second most popular day to send emails during Thanksgiving Weekend was the day before Thanksgiving.

Emails sent on Saturday and Sunday increased only slightly. This might be a surprise, considering the initial numbers are pointing to an extremely successful Small Business Saturday 2014.

Email volume
Day of Thanksgiving Week 2013 2014 Percent increase

Wednesday

295,642,073

316,451,083

7%

Thursday

177,852,921

196,965,949

11%

Friday

229,112,727

256,652,991

12%

Saturday

117,174,598

119,948,001

2%

Sunday

112,482,919

113,155,976

1%

Monday

309,529,533

365,306,439

18%

Overall 1,241,794,771 1,368,480,439 10%

 

5. Was Black Friday More Gray Than Expected?

Reports this week indicate that sales on Black Friday were not as high as originally forecast. But, says Stitch Labs, a leading inventory and multi-channel selling solution for SMBs that shortfall may be due to sales shifting—Thanksgiving Day’s share of sales increased 38 percent. Here’s the scoop:

  • In 2014, 14.8 percent of sales during the Thanksgiving Day weekend were placed on Thanksgiving Day, up from 10.7 percent in 2013.
  • In 2013, Cyber Monday sales made up 37.4 percent of all sales during the Thanksgiving weekend. This fell to 29.2 percent in 2014.

 

6. Workplace 2015

Want to get the best out of your employees? Brian Shapland, general manager of Turnstone (a Steelcase brand), offers some tips to help your employees be more productive, creative and collaborative.

Accommodate work preferences and needs: Privacy has become a hot topic in the workplace as employers are realizing one atmosphere does not fit all. This is explained in Steelcase research suggesting the best collaborative spaces also support solitude. Build designated areas for group brainstorms, one-on-one meetings, solo work and socializing.

Choice: Arrange the office with different zones to give employees the option to change up their environment throughout the day. Employers can also allow staff to work remotely when it makes sense.

Making employee well-being a priority: Offer height-adjustable desks or active seats, like the Buoy, to offset some of the damage of being sedentary. Make nutritious snacks and water available.

7. Have an Appy New Year

Is getting your financial act together one of your New Year’s resolutions? The folks from Xero want to help. Here’s their list of must-have apps to help you “manage your business and streamline your finances”:

  1. MileBug is a mile-tracking app that helps you monitor your miles driven, and how much you spend on gas.
  2. Square allows you to accept credit card payments from an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.
  3. Tax Jar automates your sales tax return filings, keeps track of local tax regulations and monitors years of payment history.
  4. Stitch Labs manages your inventory and automatically syncs all resulting financial data, allowing you to integrate all sales channels, fulfill orders faster and capitalize on inventory deals.
  5. Xero is a cloud accounting software like, allowing you to manage your finances on any device, from anywhere. Xero integrates with over 300 business applications.

 

8. Carpe Diem

There’s so much interesting information packed into a recent survey from Go Daddyexamining the lives and motivations of small business owners. Check out the infographic for a quick overview. Some highlights:

  • 83 percent of small business owners are happier than they used to be in their old jobs
  • 88 percent are optimistic about their company’s prospects
  • 55 percent say their business “kicks ass”
  • 67 percent self-financed using savings and credit cards
  • 51 percent work from home

 

9. Amazon Sales Made Easier

If you operate an Amazon store, Shoppost just launched a platform for social commerce you can use to merchandise and sell your products straight from social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and on blogs.

After seeing products they like in their social news feeds customers can click and go straight to a branded shopping cart and check out. The Shoppost web app also provides an analytics tool.

 

10. Party Off

Fewer American businesses plan to party this holiday season, according to a survey conducted by Battalia Winston, a leading global executive search firm. Only 88 percent of companies polled will be partying this month, which is down from 96 percent in 2013 and 91 percent in 2012.

This, despite the fact these same companies say they’re “on track to grow and hire in 2015.” Some businesses (14 percent) aren’t having parties because their now remote workforce is scattered across the country.

Those companies that are throwing parties are limiting the guest list to employees only (70 percent) and 62 percent aren’t giving out holiday gifts.

 

11. Oh, Give Me a Home

According to a Zillow Mortgages analysis, the self-employed get 40 percent fewer purchase loan quotes, primarily because of their typically lower credit scores. The survey revealed self-employed borrowers receive six loan quotes for every 10 received by non-self-employed borrowers. Self-employed mortgage shoppers are about twice as likely to report a FICO® score below 680 (lenders recommend a credit score of at least 740 to get the best mortgage interest rates).

All this, despite the fact self-employed borrowers report 81 percent higher household incomes ($145,000) than non self-employed ($80,000).

 

12. Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Speaking of homes, most Americans are not satisfied with theirs, says a new report from The Demand Institute, a non-profit think tank formed by Nielson and The Conference Board. The report, America’s Top 10 Housing Needs and Desires, introduces the concept of the “Housing Satisfaction Gap”—the gap between what Americans have today and what they say they need or want:

  • Increased Energy Efficiency: 71 percent of households say this is important
  • Aging-Friendly Homes: 65+ aged households are growing 10x faster
  • Affordable Housing: Nearly 40 million households face a housing “cost burden”
  • More Space for More Stuff: 49 percent those planning to move want more space than they have

 

13. What’s In a Name?

Verisign just released its latest Domain Name Industry Brief offering some insight on global domain registrations and trends. Verisign found:

  • 4 million domain names were added to the Internet in the 2nd quarter of 2014
  • .com and .net are in demand, growing to a combined total of approximately 128.9 million domain names (113.7 million names for .com, 15.2 million for .net)

For more information, copies of the Q2’14 DNIB and past reports can be obtained at VerisignInc.com/DNIB.

 

14. There’s No Such Thing as Tech Overload

A lot of business owners are concerned that using the cloud can lead to distracted employees and decreased productivity. But, according to a new study by IT solutions provider Softchoice, today’s employees aren’t overloaded with technology—in fact, employees with access to more technology and cloud applications are the happiest and most productive. Here are some of the study’s highlights:

  • 74 percent of employees who use cloud apps are happy at work, compared to 19 percent of non-app users
  • 85 percent of heavy cloud app users (using more than 6 apps) feel they have an optimal work-life balance, compared to 59 percent of non-app users
  • 96 percent of employees who use 6+ cloud apps feel productive at work, compared to 77 percent of non-app users

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