Profitability moves

A small business owner needs to be productive now and prepare to be where trends are headed.


Boost productivity with SaaS

Some essential tasks are a drag on productivity. They may be easy but time-consuming,, or they may be short and simple but interrupt tasks that require concentration. Software may be able to handle some of those tasks. Five “Software as a Service” programs for tasks such as scheduling service calls or sending auto-responders are briefly described here.


How SBOs are using YouTube to find customers

More and more customers are finding small businesses on YouTube. The smartest small businesses are finding their customers via YouTube. Learn how those small businesses do it.


Zoho adds call management to CRM service

The business services company Zoho has integrated call management into its customer relationship management (CRM) service. The integration makes handling sales calls smoother, since all the information about customers is in a single location (your headquarters), not scattered among a number of staffers’ phones and computers.


HTTPS  pages get indexing priority over HTTP

Google is now giving priority to secure URLS, those that begin with with HTTPS instead of HTTP.  HTTP sites are more susceptible to bad guys doing things with visitors’ data than are HTTPS sites. The HTTPS also influences whether customers  trust you with their data.

The plan so far is to index secure pages rather than non-secure ones when a website appears to have same content on two pages with the two different protocols. (Indexing is the process in which a search engine’s examines a website and adds/removes its pages from future searches.)


HTTPS expected to become search ranking factor

Web developers expect Google will move toward favoring secure sites over insecure ones in search engine results pages. As reported here October 19, a webpage’s SERP position determines whether customers will find you or not.


Plan now for HTTPS in your future

Google has a guide to securing your website with HTTPS. You don’t necessarily need to know how to do it yourself, if you know enough to find people who do. Specifically, you’ll need:

  1. a web developer who can be trusted to do the initial work properly.
  2. a website maintenance person who will keep your HTTPS site compliant.
  3. money set aside to cover the costs of (1) and (2) if you don’t do the work yourself.

Tax topics

$9/hour NY minimum wage starts New Year’s Day. New IRS rules for businesses. Free help keeping tax records


Open New Year’s? Pay higher NY minimum wage

New York’s minimum wage goes up to $9 an hour from its present $8.75 on Dec. 31, 2015. Plan now for the transition, especially if your business will be open on New Year’s Day.


IRS raises expense v. depreciation limit

The Internal Revenue Service is raising the “safe harbor” limit businesses can deduct on a capital investment within a single year raised to $2500 from $500. The $2,500 threshold takes effect in tax year 2016; however, the IRS will provide audit protection to eligible businesses by not challenging use of the $2,500 threshold in tax years prior to 2016.


IRS business mileage rates decrease for 2016

The IRS mileage rates  for the use of a vehicle starting Jan.1, 2016 , are:

  • 54 cents per mile for business use
  • 19 cents per mile driven for medical reasons or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven for charitable purposes.

Business mileage: There’s an app for that

Everlance has created a way for users to record business mileage without having to use a paper mileage log or having to remember to hit “start” on a mileage tracker.  It works through a smartphone’s GPS, geofencing and other inputs. The free Everlance app is designed for small business owners and independent contractors.


IRS alerts to prevent late payroll taxes

The Internal Revenue Service is going to monitor the payment habits of businesses and send them automated alerts when they seem to be having problems. The idea is to keep people from being hit with fees and penalties that could have been avoided by proper management of payroll taxes.


Avoid danger

Check your business compliance. Don’t mail late.  More, including a slideshow to make you smile


Identity theft problems for small law firms

According to LegalTech News, identity theft problems for law firms are more subtle than someone using personal data to make credit card purchases. They include such things as personal data leveraged for blackmail or a business’s information being used to subvert the course of a business deal. (Access to LegalTech News is free, but registration is required.)

Law firms should be proactive in preparing against information breeches. The Federal Trade Commission’s free publication Start with Security: A Guide for Business  gives  10 practical lessons businesses including law firms can learn from the FTC’s 50+ data security settlements.


Check your business compliance before year’s end

Failing to keep your corporation or LLC compliant can result in added fees and penalties. To make sure your company has met all its legal requirements, as the year draws to a close use this checklist to help you review.


Food label changes for food producers in the works

A bill to create a single standard for front-of-package labeling for all food products has been introduced in both houses of Congress.  It would revise everything from the ingredients list to the nutrition panel to the use of terms like “healthy” and “natural.” The Food Labeling Modernization Act (PDF) is  opposed by the National Federation of Independent Business as likely to be burdensome for small business and expensive for consumers.


Beware of employee student loan debt garnishment

Businesses can be sued for the amount of a student loan owed by a present or former employee if the business fails to comply with garnishment orders. Complying with garnishment orders is part of the payroll process.

Garnishment orders are typically delivered to businesses via their registered agent. Sole proprietors, who are not required to have registered agents, are more likely to fall victim to such suits than LLCs and corporations which must have registered agents.


Don’t miss these USPS holiday deadlines

Today’s the Postal Service deadline for ground service for less-than-urgent deliveries and over-sized packages. The other holiday deadlines are here.


A happy note: recycled holiday house slideshow

A Danish artist built a holiday house in  Copenhagen’s Nikolaj Square out of pallets and other discards he recycled. He filled it with more junk he scavanged. Then he invited the public in to transform the junk into Christmas gifts, all for free. The house and some of the gifts are shown here.


Details matter

Optimum image sizes for social media. Email list maintenance. Business security. More.


Cybersecurity matters to your small business

Cybercriminals don’t care how big your business is; they have viruses that attack anything in their path. Small businesses with their typically lax security offer a easy path into other more lucrative sites. Eight reasons to be concerned about computer data security are explained here.


Big retailers’ problem a small business’s opportunity?

Now is a good time to think about how your small retail operation could take advantage of the big retailers’ holiday problems.  This shopping season out-of-stocks, overstocks and returns are costing retailers an estimated $1.75 trillion in addition to the cost of the pre-Black Friday reductions they offered. If you can’t undercut the big stores in pricing, how can you outsmart them in customer service so you don’t have to run big holiday sales?


New York’s craft brewery industry booming

Since the passage of the farm brewing bill in 2012, New York’s craft-brewery industry has boomed, growing 59 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a recent study.


Social media image sizes infographic:

Images get attention. It’s useful to know optimum image sizes for the social media you use regularly so you can choose and/edit images to show well. Various image sizes for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube are shown in this infographic.


Tips for trimming your email list

Like any other business asset, an email list requires regular maintenance.  Learn how to get rid of bad addresses and identify potential problems in your email marketing.


Will 2016 be the year for social commerce?

Social media is already driving much bigger increases in retail traffic than any other online channel.  Show shoppers on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram your product, brand, or business just as big businesses do.


Avoid being scammed by a B2B business

The legitimate-looking invoice you receive for a listing in an online yellow pages directory could be scam—and a nightmare. The Small Business Administration says businesses that ignored the invoices for unauthorized listings have been bombarded with  collection warnings followed up with visits from scammers posing as third-party debt collectors.

The Federal Trade Commission has a booklet of tips for dealing with such scams. Download the Small Business Scams pdf to how to train your staff, inspect your invoices, and verify messages.


One free way to good PR for a B2B operation

The FTC’s booklet of tips for avoiding small business scams mentioned in the previous item is available free in bulk quantities of between 25 and 300 copies. Order copies to distribute to the your business’s customers.While you’re ordering, get some extras to give to B2C small and medium-sized businesses, churches, and not-for-profit groups.

TIP: Putting your business name on a booklet you got free is tacky.  Personalize your gift  by addressing the recipient by name as you hand her/him a copy.


 

 

Trends, tools, tips

Reasons to be online and on mobile. Business software tools. Small can be good business. MORE


 Nearly half of 2015 holiday shopping will be online

Between checking prices and product availability before heading to a store and staying at home and ordering on line, 46.1 percent of retail shopping is expected to be done online this year.  The main shopping tool is the smart phone:  37.9 percent of consumers will do their shopping with one.

November 27 sales figures bear up the predictions. This year, Black Friday retail store sales fell to $10.4 billion, down from $11.6 billion last year.


Tips for local digital marketing

Adding digital marketing to the marketing mix for a bricks-and-mortar store requires some different tricks than marketing for either an online-only store or for a store that’s used to off-line-only advertising. These 31 tips for marketing your local business digitally will help you get started.


Smallness can be a business asset

Smallness can make a business or product attractive.

  • Tiny stand-alone buildings being used in lieu of in-home offices. Some communities even making business parks for tiny stand-alone retail and service businesses.
  • A bookstore in Japan stocks only one book each week.The shop hosts an event six evenings a week to discuss that week’s book.
  • Single-serve packages are a big slice of the consumer market, used for food,  beverage, healthcare, personal-care products, cat-food, and perfume, among other things.

How might thinking small be a business advantage for you?


Best integrated business management tools

Getting one software program to play nicely with another can be a real headache. For the small business owner who lacks time and/or expertise to get software necessary for a half dozen or more business functions to work, integrated packages are a good solution. This article gives short descriptions of several general business management tools, plus a few designed for specific types of businesses, such as a law office or beauty salon.


Free upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7/8

Windows 10 is drawing raves that Windows 8 never got. If you are running either Windows 8 or Windows 7, visit Microsoft to learn  about how to upgrade to Windows 10 free.


How to reach your target audience with Facebook

Besides the information its users provide, Facebook collects data from external sources such as the US Census, warranty cards, registration information, the Department of Motor Vehicles, public record information, survey data, sweepstakes, and other offline sources. You can use that information to target the customers you most want.