Keeping Pace with Small Business

By Lauren Simonds | Posted October 03, 2014

This week's small business roundup covers lots of great tips for entrepreneurs, financing your small business, hiring trends, marketing strategies, Windows 10, and iOS. Give it a read and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Entrepreneurship

  • Whether you're a dyed-in-the-wool tree-hugger, a concerned citizen who wants to help shrink humanity's carbon footprint, or just looking for a good way to cut costs, "greening" your business can help meet all of those objectives. Just ask Mitch Rofsky, the president of the Betterworld Club.
  • When you go all-in as an entrepreneur, can you still care about work-life balance? Some people would argue that unless you're willing to focus on your business 100 percent, you simply won’t make it. But is that true, or is that puffed-up bravado? It all comes down to structuring your time and honoring your schedule.
  • Everybody makes mistakes, and in the course of starting and running a business, you're going to make a lot of them. That's to be expected. But all mistakes are not created equal, and as these entrepreneurs will tell you, some mistakes will haunt you for a long, long time.

Finance

  • Small business owners have a tough time securing loans to start or grow their business. And if those small business owners also happen to be women, that financing is even more elusive. The result is that a disproportionate number of women business owners have had to rely on friends and family to finance their dreams. The good news is that the SBA offers programs to help level the playing field and give women entrepreneurs a fighting chance .
  • Of course, no matter what your gender identity, if you plan to apply for a small business loan—either a traditional bank loan or from one of the ever-increasing alternative lending options—you'll need to be ready to answer more than a few questions.

Human Resources

  • One sign of a strengthening economy might surprise you: more people are quitting their jobs. One result of that fact may take you by surprise: it's getting harder to retain top talent, and losing top talent something that a small business can ill afford. Small business owners share their strategies for keeping the best employees.

Marketing

  • The retail version of the Super Bowl is right around the corner. Of course, I refer to the holidays, the most important time of year for retailers both large and small. Have you started prepping your holiday marketing plan yet? If not, you might want to get a jump on things, starting with your Facebook strategy.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) sometimes feels like a giant game of whack-a-mole because just when you think you've got it right, Google changes its algorithms. Your organic website traffic can drop precipitously without warning. While this can be frustrating, keep in mind that the point is to let great content drive search traffic—not tricks like keyword stuffing and sketchy backlinks. Bottom line: if you want to rank well so that customers can find your website, you must keep tabs on the latest legitimate SEO tactics as determined by Google.
  • Do you list your business on Yelp? Online reviews are the modern day equivalent of word-of-mouth. It's on a scale writ large, which means your business can reap huge rewards in terms of exposure, Web traffic, and new customers. The dark side of that, of course, is that the exposure isn’t always positive. Take a look at how you can make the most of Yelp.

Productivity

  • Confession time: I'm a fairly tidy and organized person—except when it comes to my office desk. However, I'm also an eternal optimist (or sucker, you decide), so I keep looking for the right tips to get organized once and for all. Maybe these will do the trick.
  • Ever have an Otis Redding moment? You know, where you're "just sittin' on the dock of the bay wastin' time." It's easy to spot the obvious time wasters. Facebook, anyone? But you might be wasting time and not even realize it. Take a look at your work day, and you might find a few not-so-obvious habits that derail your productivity.

Technology

  • Many small business owners have yet to upgrade from either the defunct Windows XP (yikes!) or Windows 7, because they've heard nothing but bad things about Windows 8. And yes, Windows 8 pretty much sucks—especially if you use a desktop PC. But fear not, change is in the air. Microsoft announced plans to roll out Windows 10 (yep, they just skipped right over 9), and it looks like it could be a good thing.
  • Office productivity suites used to be purchased once, installed on, and tethered to a desktop computer. Thanks to cloud computing and its monthly subscription-based business model, those days are over. Now Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps battle it out for your small business dollars. The latest salvo comes from Microsoft, as it announces new small business pricing plans for Office 365.
  • It's quite possible that everyone, even the Amish, has heard about the new Apple iPhone 6. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people who are new to—and unfamiliar with—the basics of Apple's mobile operating system, or iOS. If that description applies to you or to someone you love, you need to read this guide right now.

Friday Fun

  • When I browse the Web, I typically skip opportunities to watch any ads. I hate ads. But this one made me laugh. That right there is some funny marketing.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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