We cartoonists have to worry about weird details. For example:
How many ups and downs are funny?
Would a curvy line be funnier?
Should it dip below the bottom axis, and if so how often?
How should the graph end?
It took me a few tries before I decided that this line graph was funny enough, but I think I got it.
This article, “When it Comes to Excitement, the Sales Report Never Disappoints” was first published on Small Business Trends
President Donald Trump’s decision to fire outgoing State Secretary Rex Tillerson could pitch oil prices upward as the White House is expected to become more aggressive toward foreign oil companies.
Tillerson’s ousting could tilt the balance of power away from oil producers in Iran and Venezuela, analysts told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. Replacing the former ExxonMobil CEO with CIA Director Mike Pompeo will likely prompt oil prices to pitch upward, they added.
She was referring to Pompeo’s well-known animus to the 2015 international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, which, if eliminated, could reimpose economic sanctions on Iran that would limit its oil exports and reduce global supply. Pompeo has also expressed interest in slapping energy sanctions against OPEC member Venezuela.
Oil prices edged slightly higher Wednesday ahead of U.S. inventory data that are expected to show a rise in crude stocks. Other analysts suggest that the oil markets don’t appear spooked by Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas.
Surging non-OPEC oil supply is likely smothering any geopolitical angst from Tillerson’s ouster, according to Bloomberg’s Liam Denning. Another possible reason for the oil market’s relative nonplussed position on Pompeo, he added, is fatigue with the chaotic nature of the Trump administration.
Trump’s ever-changing governing ethos makes “it tough to draw any conclusions about the direction of policy, much less wager money on it,” Denning said, adding that it is not clear if eliminating the Iran agreement would effectively cut off Iranian barrels.
“Europe has been a big buyer of these since the deal went into effect, and China’s imports of Iranian oil have jumped too,” he added.
Republished by permission. Original here.
Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “Tillerson Departure Could Impact What Your Business Pays for Oil” was first published on Small Business Trends
Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) just announced the release of Essentials providing small businesses for the first time with a variety of apps for what the company calls the number one global CRM platform. Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials are the first Salesforce Essential apps available.
The apps are backed with the power of Salesforce Trailhead, Einstein AI, Lightning and AppExchange, which will give small businesses access to enterprise-grade CRM solutions. Salesforce says this is going to future-proof businesses in a rapidly evolving digital environment while allowing them to work smarter and faster with a strong focus on customers.
Small businesses spend a considerable amount of time on manual processes. According to Salesforce, this can amount to 23 percent of an averages small business’s workday. This means a quarter of their time could be better used to drive more productive business initiatives, such as growth. Salesforce Essentials has been designed to overcome this challenge in an easy to use platform small organizations can capitalize on.
In a press release, Mike Rosenbaum, Executive Vice President of CRM Applications at Salesforce, said, “With Essentials, we’ve taken the full power of Salesforce and tailored it for the unique needs of small businesses. Essentials is easy to set up and use — and it’s future-proof, so small businesses can add new capabilities quickly and easily as they grow.”
Salesforce Essentials delivers the same innovative solutions and CRM platform used by 83 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Salesforce said the only difference is it has been optimized to address the needs of small businesses.
The tools include using Trailhead to quickly get started with Salesforce and learn what you can do with the technology. Once you know your way around, you can use Salesforce’s AI platform Einstein to work smarter and also work faster with the Salesforce Lightning platform and the Salesforce Mobile App.
When you are up and running, and ready for your next step, scalability will not be an issue because Essentials is built on the world’s No. 1 CRM platform.
Sales Cloud Essentials gives small sales teams the ability to work smarter and sell more quickly by increasing efficiencies in the sales process. Teams can access comprehensive customer history, including activity history, key contacts, customer communications and internal account discussions in one place with Lightning Sales Console. The information, which includes reports and dashboards of company performance, can be accessed from anywhere with the Salesforce Mobile App.
Service Cloud Essentials makes it easy to set up a help desk to deliver personalized customer service instantly. It gives service agents a complete view of all customer interactions in a single and unified desktop view. This lets agents understand the history and context of each call so disputes can be resolved quickly and accurately.
Customers can make contact via phone, email, Twitter or Facebook. And the Service Cloud Mobile app lets agents provide customer service from anywhere.
The Salesforce Essentials apps, Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials are available now. They are priced at $25 per month per user, but you can try them at no cost for 30 days.
This article, “New Salesforce Essentials Gives Small Businesses Enterprise Level Tools” was first published on Small Business Trends
The madness has begun. And if you have millennial employees, there’s a good chance the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will distract them.
You’re likely to see the famed basketball tournament brackets floating around your office. And the chatter at the water cooler may have more to do with underdogs and Cinderellas than it does with getting that big project done on time. In fact, the March Madness tournament is likely to cost American businesses, overall, at least $600 million this year.
That figure comes from employees spending time filling out their brackets and following the results instead of doing work. That’s a lot of down time.
And it’s likely the most time wasted is being done by millennials.
New data from The Tylt shows that employees in the millennial group are likely to put off a work deadline to catch the games on TV (or wherever they’re watching these days). According to a survey conducted recently, 55.8 percent of millennial employees put their brackets first over a work project. Just 44.2 percent of those surveyed say work comes first when it comes to the work and basketball balance.
It seems small business owners are up against it like a 16-seed facing a 1-seed in the opening round of the tournament. There may be no way of preventing employees from following the tournament, even when they’re at work.
Another survey from The Tylt shows 63.5 percent of employees are going to watch the early basketball games on Thursday and Friday (the first and second rounds of the tournament) while they’re at work. Only 36.5 percent of employees say they’ll only watch games at home.
So, with the odds against you, what can you do to take advantage of your distracted employees?
An office pool may be the answer. Of course, you’ll want to make sure this is a legal office pool with no money involved. Instead of a cash prize, offer some type of work-related prize, like access to a prime parking spot or the keys to the executive restroom.
More Tylt data shows office pools (legal or not) are quite popular among millennials. Among those surveyed, 78.5 percent say “Office Pools FTW” while just 21.5 percent say the pools have no place at work.
All this information shows it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to prevent your employees from getting distracted by the basketball tournament. At the very least, keep a majority of your employees engaged with their work while they’re tracking their brackets.
Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “March Madness Will Draw Your Employees’ Focus from Work, Surveys Says” was first published on Small Business Trends
A good all-in-one printer can provide a small business with a simple way to print out hard copies of documents, scan receipts and other important items to keep digital records, and even communicate with others via fax.
Even with more and more businesses cutting down on paper usage, these devices offer enough functionality to be worth the investment for a lot of small businesses. But nearly two-thirds of small businesses don’t have any idea what they spend on printing related costs. So choosing a great printer that works for your needs and can keep costs down should be a top priority.
While every business is going to have its own particular needs and budget to work with, here are some top options from different brands and price points that might work for your small business.
This Brother model allows offices to print for less than a cent per page for black and white, with color printing also available. It has a 500-sheet capacity, so it’s likely best for group offices rather than a single person working from home. It also includes wireless connectivity and retails for about $350.
A printing option that’s best for low-volume printing, this HP all-in-one offers great print quality in both color and black and white, along with decent printing speeds. It’s not quite as cost effective per page as higher volume models, but the retail price is just about $100.
This monochrome multifunction printer from Dell offers several features built for efficiency, including the ability to print directly from Microsoft SharePoint. In addition, it offers a low cost-per-page for high volume printing jobs and retails for between $200 and $350.
This Xerox printer is a solid option for offices that need quality resolution and fast printing. It includes built-in wifi, two-sided printing and can print up to 27 pages per minute. It retails for about $130.
This multifunction laser printer from Lexmark is made for small and medium sized businesses. It comes with mobile printing, professional color matching and a color display for easy navigating. For about $400, it prints up to 25 pages per minute.
This Ricoh printer series is a budget friendly option that only prints in black and white. It prints quickly and is space efficient. There are a few different size options available that also come with Android and iPhone apps for easy mobile connectivity.
This Samsung multifunction printer is packed full of advanced features that let you print in color, different finishes, and on both sides of the page. It also comes with a compact design to work for offices of any size.
A mono laser printer from HP, this model is space efficient, but still able to print high volume jobs. It doesn’t include color printing, so it’s only for the most basic jobs, with a relatively low cost per page.
This Canon printer retails for just about $100, so it’s an affordable option for home offices or workplaces that don’t process a high volume of printing jobs. Some of the features include bluetooth and cloud printing options, along with a compact design and different color options so it’s sure to fit into any well-designed workspace.
An all-in-one printer from Epson that includes two trays and a 500-sheet capacity, this model is best for busy offices that are in need of versatility with their printing jobs. It includes two-sided printing, high quality color options and touchscreen navigation for about $300 retail price.
Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “Top 10 All in One Printers for Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends
An evaluation made by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General regarding loans made to poultry farmers and growers concluded most do not meet regulatory and SBA requirements for eligibility.
In reaching this conclusion, the Office of Inspector General stated in its evaluation (PDF), large chicken companies or integrators exercised comprehensive control of such magnitude over growers as to make them affiliative under SBA regulations.
The control was so pervasive, the report states it overcame virtually all of the grower’s ability to operate their businesses independent of the established integrator mandates. The SBA has also concluded as a result close to $1.8 billion in loans made from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2016 may be ineligible.
As part of its recommendations, the Office of Inspector General has suggested improvement in the SBA’s oversight of the 7(a) Loan Program, which was responsible for doling out the funds. This includes reviewing the loans cited in the evaluation, as well as the current arrangement between integrators and growers to determine their affiliations.
The SBA 7(a) Loan Guarantee program is designed help small businesses with qualification challenges in their traditional loan applications get funding. The program essentially encourages lenders to make loans to this segment by guarantying the loan against default.
The key point to remember here is, 7(a) was designed for small businesses and an organization has to be defined as such by the SBA to qualify.
According to the SBA and its small business size standards, there are a lot of exceptions as to what is technically classified as a small business. The two widely used standards suggest a small business must have 500 employees or less in the case of most manufacturing and mining industries and $7.5 million in average annual receipts for many nonmanufacturing industries. But the number for both employees and annual receipts can go as high as 1,500 and $38.5 million respectively.
If you are seeking a loan from the SBA and its 7(a) program, make sure you are not affiliated with a corporation that has overwhelming control of your small business.
Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “Government Says Most Poultry Farms Are NOT Small Businesses, Can’t Get SBA Loans” was first published on Small Business Trends
Creativity is like a muscle. It must be stretched, challenged, and occasionally pushed past its comfort zone.
Now it’s time to stretch your creative muscles again.
Here are nine ways you can dramatically improve your creativity.
Curiosity will lead you to creativity.
Andrew Ng, formerly of Google and now of Baidu, is one who doesn’t believe innovation is due to unpredictable flashes of genius. Rather, he said you can become more creative and innovative systematically.
“In my own life, I found that whenever I wasn’t sure what to do next, I would go and learn a lot, read a lot, talk to experts. I don’t know how the human brain works but it’s almost magical: when you read enough or talk to enough experts, when you have enough inputs, new ideas start appearing.”
Indeed, collaborating with and learning from others may be just what you need to give your creativity a boost.
Stuck for ideas? Not sure what to do? Your life needs some balance to ensure your creativity doesn’t suffer.
In a letter to his son, Albert Einstein provided a great bit of fatherly insight when addressing his son’s interest in playing the piano that is applicable to losing yourself in the creative process: do something that pleases you.
“That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes,” Einstein wrote. “I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal.”
Love and creativity are intertwined. A hobby, such as playing an instrument, running, or collecting memorabilia, can help you relax and fight stress while giving your creativity a boost.
Your next idea won’t come from copying what a competitor has already done. So look for innovation in different industries and niches.
Research what businesses are dominating. Why?
What businesses are you most loyal to? Why?
How can you transfer what worked for businesses outside your industry to your own market? Maybe you can improve on these ideas.
Taking inspiration from other industries is a great way to boost your own creativity.
As Alan Cohen once wrote, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”
Sometimes your best ideas will come when you’re not wracking your brain trying to come up with the next great idea.
It could be while you’re sleeping. A good night of rest will help you be more productive and creative.
It could be while your mind wanders in the shower that you get a great idea.
Maybe your next innovative idea will come while you’re driving, exercising, hiking, shopping, sitting on an airplane, or watching the sunset.
If your creativity is lacking, unplug. Relax. And let your brain do its magic.
The average person sits between 7 and 15 hours every day.
That’s terrible for your health and your mood, which means it can be terrible for your creativity.
Stanford research has indicated that walking improves creative thinking. In a follow-up study, HBR found that people who take part in walking meetings are more creative and engaged.
Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Western Union Co. CEO Hikmet Ersek, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and scores of other business leaders and entrepreneurs regularly have walking meetings.
While walking during work won’t solve our national sitting crisis, it’s a step in the right direction.
A lack of ideas or being unable to solve a problem can be extremely frustrating.
Unless you value complete silence, music can be the thing to give your mood, and your creativity, a boost.
Steve Jobs used music to change his moods and keep himself creative.
It could work for you, too.
Sometimes you just need to start over. Forget everything and begin anew with a blank slate – break it down using six different colored “thinking hats”.
Using this process could help you look at things in a different way. It gives you the option to look at things in a “just the facts” manner (white hat); where things could go wrong (black hat); and possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas (green hat), for example.
By looking at a problem from several unique perspectives may be just what you need to find a solution.
Sometimes you’re too close to a problem to figure out a creative solution all by yourself.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Ask for help and advice from friends, peers, and people from your personal network that you trust and respect. Every person has a unique skill set, experience, and knowledge.
A fresh outside perspective, or three, or five, may be just what you need.
Even if you don’t use their advice, it may spark some new, creative thinking that will get you where you need to go.
Step away from whatever idea you’re stuck on for a few minutes.
What’s the most useless idea you can imagine? Make a list of the worst ideas you can think up.
Now the real challenge to stretch your creativity: what are the best features of these terrible idea
Perhaps looking at these terrible ideas will spark something creative that you can transfer over to your excellent idea.
Check out this infographic for some more ways to get your creative juices flowing.
Republished by permission. Original here.
Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “Watch Out! These 9 Tips May Boost Your Creativity as an Entrepreneur” was first published on Small Business Trends
Normally at this time of year, individuals and small business owners are solely focused on their 2017 taxes. But with the passage of the sweeping tax overhaul, this is no ordinary year. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act takes affect starting with your 2018 return and beyond, but the changes are so significant, it’s important to understand the bill and how it will impact your small business.
For small businesses, the two biggest changes are the lowering of the tax rate for C Corporations and the 20 percent tax deduction for pass-through entities. Here’s a high level look at both.
The law creates a brand new tax deduction for owners of pass-through entities like sole proprietors, members of LLCs, partners in partnerships and shareholders in S Corporations. For taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026, these individuals can generally deduct 20% of their qualified business income (QBI) from a pass-through entity. Sounds good, right? And it is — but there are a few details to know:
In short, this new pass-through deduction can be a really nice tax break for those individuals who qualify. If you are not sure how it applies to your business, don’t worry — you’re probably not alone. But, it’s a good time to talk to a tax law professional or tax advisor. And lastly, unlike the corporate tax cut (which is permanent), the pass-through deduction is set to phase out in 2025 (unless Congress extends it).
One of the other big tenets of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the major reduction in the C Corporation tax rate… it was slashed from 35 percent to 21 percent. If you’re structured as a pass-through entity right now, you might be wondering if you’d be better off structured as a C Corp to take advantage of that 21% rate.
But keep in mind that double taxation is still a factor. Simply put, double taxation occurs when income earned by the corporation is taxed at the business level; then, when the corporation distributes income to shareholders, the shareholders are taxed on that dividend. For owners who also expect to take some profit out as distributions, this can mean you’re essentially being taxed twice (first at the corporate level, then at the individual level).
If you are looking to re-invest profits back into the business, then a C Corporation might be the optimal business structure – this has always been the conventional guidance but it’s even more true now with the tax rate at 21 percent. If you are looking to take a bulk of the profits out of the business and put them in your own pocket, a pass-through entity is still most likely better (but you may want to speak with a tax advisor).
The bottom line is this is a good time to think about the tax changes and your business structure. Keep an eye out for when the IRS releases additional guidance. If needed, speak with a tax advisor about your specific situation. And lastly, one of the key reasons to form an LLC or Corporation has always been the ability to minimize the personal liability of business owners from things that happen in the business. This still holds true. The most important reason to form a business entity isn’t necessarily to save a bit on taxes; instead it’s to protect your personal assets for years to come.
Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “Cracking the Code on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: How It Will Impact Your Business” was first published on Small Business Trends
Kradle announces a new software package designed to help small and medium-sized businesses in any industry manage their operations.
The company touts its product as a self-managed software allowing businesses to achieve their competitive potential. Kradle gives small businesses resource planning software capabilities at an inexpensive price, at a low learning curve and with fast implementation.
As small businesses increase their digital presence with eCommerce, social media and 24/7 global availability, effectively managing their operations is getting more complicated. What Kradle aims to do is provide enterprise resource planning tool sets so small companies can obtain the same insights as large enterprises to compete and succeed.
The CEO of Kradle, Michael Haddon, said the software levels the playing field for small to medium-sized businesses. In a press release, he adds, “They now have access to tools which allow them to become more efficient, productive, and profitable.” This includes eliminating repetitive, manual tasks to focus on added value activities for the business.
Kradle has been designed so users can build and manage data models unique to their specific needs and industry with tailored workflows. Once they have a system in place, they can analyze operational performance to gain the business insight needed to be more productive and grow.
With Kradle, you are not restricted to the number of workflow templates and pre-configured layouts which limit your flexibility and growth potential. You are in charge of the configurations you put in place with unlimited variations. And all of the data you generate is stored and maintained in the company’s secure database hosted within Microsoft Azure cloud.
The Kradle modules include a database builder and manager, a business process manager, and business analytics. With these modules, you can build your own model, expose weaknesses and exploit strengths, as well as building, allocating, and managing custom tasks.
Kradle starts its free 30-day trial without hidden fees or credit card numbers. If you want to move to the pay services, there are three tiers which are priced based on annual billing. Silver is for small businesses and it will run you $49 per month per user. Gold is for medium or growing businesses at $79 per month per user, and Platinum will address large and complex businesses for $119 per month per user.
This article, “Kradle Launches Small Business Management Software” was first published on Small Business Trends
Etsy (NASDAQ: ETSY) has been one of the most popular online platforms for handmade and vintage sellers for more than a decade. With nearly 2 million business owners and hobbyists selling their wares, the company is constantly evolving and releasing new tools to support the ecommerce community.
Small Business Trends recently spoke with Kruti Patel Goyal, who is the General Manager of Seller Services for Etsy about what sellers can do to grow their businesses on the platform and some of the new features that can help them do just that.
If you’re just getting started on Etsy, the first step that Patel Goyal recommends is doing some reading. Etsy has always offered guides like its Seller Handbook to help business owners make the most of the platform. And those materials are updated constantly so you’ll always have the most recent information.
Patel Goyal said in an email to Small Business Trends, “Etsy’s Seller Handbook is also an essential resource for sellers just getting started. For instance, our Ultimate Guides to product photography and marketing cover everything you need to know to present your products professionally and get the word out about your new business.”
As with any type of ecommerce business, a special sale or discount code can help you incentivize new purchases. And Etsy offers a feature that lets you choose which type of promotion to offer so you can schedule it for your shop.
Patel Goyal explains, “Special offers can help sellers capture the attention of shoppers and create a loyal following. With Etsy’s tools, sellers can schedule and run “percentage off” or “free shipping” sales that encourage shoppers to add more to their carts.”
From there, you can set your shop to automatically send out updates about promotions to your social media channels. This lets you save time while still getting the word out about your special offers.
Patel Goyal says, “Sellers can also share these offers across their social networks through our tools. Last year, we launched a new social media tool that makes it easy for sellers to share their listings, sales and promotions, and celebrate shop milestones across social media directly from within their Etsy Shop Manager and the Sell on Etsy app. We know Etsy sellers are busy and the Sell on Etsy app can help them stay on top of their businesses, from answering questions from buyers to paying bills on the go.”
Photography is an essential part of any successful Etsy shop. The site’s seller guides and handbook offer some basic tips for brushing up on your photography skills. But you also have to come up with a specific and recognizable style that works for your specific product line. You might consider adding some props that show scale and fit with your branding. Or you could come up with a unique background that makes your images stand out without distracting from the actual product.
SEO is also a big part of growing an Etsy shop, since most shoppers use the search or browse functions on the site to find product options. The exact SEO guidelines might change periodically. But you can’t go wrong by sticking to the basic concepts of mentioning the most relevant keywords as early and as often as possible within your titles, description, tags, and images.
To continue learning and growing along with the Etsy community, Patel Goyal also recommends connecting with other sellers. The platform’s Teams feature gives you an easy and fun way to do just that.
Patel Goyal says, “There are so many ways to find support on Etsy, particularly for sellers who are just getting started. For example, Etsy Teams are self-organized groups of sellers who share tips, run local events, and organize grassroots campaigns. Joining an Etsy Team gives sellers instant access to a community of other entrepreneurs who’ve been in their shoes.”
For a quick sales boost, Etsy also offers paid advertising options where you can boost the visibility of a particular product or products. This can be a worthwhile exercise at least to see what type of sales increase it leads to and use it to supplement your other marketing efforts as you grow your shop.
Outside of Etsy, there are also some worthwhile marketing and advertising tools you can make use of. For instance, you can set your products to show up in Google Shopping searches. Then you can pay for Google ads to boost the visibility of those products when people enter relevant search terms into Google.
Etsy sellers can also boost sales by expanding where they sell products. If you sell items at craft fairs or retail shops, you can even use a Square card reader to easily connect those in-person purchases to your shop.
Patel Goyal says, “We also know that many Etsy sellers want to connect with buyers in person, and build their brands on their own websites as they grow. We recently launched a partnership with Square so that Etsy shop owners have a solution for accepting payments wherever they’re selling.”
Once you’ve grown your shop on Etsy, you might also consider adding your own website so you can personalize and control more of the shopping experience. In fact, Etsy also offers a tool for helping shop owners in this area.
Patel Goyal adds, “For sellers ready to launch their own website, we offer Pattern, our suite of website building tools. Sellers can choose from beautiful, customizable templates and sync their Etsy inventory so they can grow their brand while managing all their orders in the same place.”
Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “10 Ways to Grow Your Small Business on Etsy” was first published on Small Business Trends