7 Ways to Quickly Re-Set a Bad Business Day

It happens to the best of us. You get up in the morning and hit your head, or you kid throws a tantrum, or you don’t feel well, or, perhaps you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. We all have those “off days.” While there is a certain level of acceptance to that fact that some days will just be harder than others, at the same time you don’t have to let any erstwhile negativity rule the next 24 hours.

how to turn around a bad business dayHere are 7 simple things you can do to quickly turn a bad business day around for the better:

1. Laugh or smile… even if you’re faking it. Various studies have found that the act of laughing can positively influence one’s mood and outlook. The same is true for smiling– even if the smile itself is fake.

2. Listen to upbeat music. Recent research has highlighted the connection between mood and music. Not only that, but some researchers even suggest that the music you listen to can also affect the way you perceive the world. So, turn the volume up, and if you’re feeling inspired, sing along. It may also help to lighten your mood.

3. Clean out the clutter. Want to regain your focus so you can concentrate on running your business and push those negative thoughts aside? Why not start the day cleaning off and organizing your desk? Even if you spend a mere half an hour on the task, the effect can be significant. In a recent study, scientists found a connection between clutter and a person’s ability to focus and process information.

4. Reach out to a friend. A few years ago, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends, while others made the climb alone. The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill, and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

5. Help someone out. Focusing on a giving to another person releases a hormone called Oxycontin that can soothe and calm even the most frazzled nerves. So, start your day by giving a little money to your favorite charity, answering another person’s question, or hugging someone you love.

6. Go for a walk. Need a fresh perspective on your day? Make time for a 30 minute walk. There is a growing body of research that suggests even moderate exercise, such as walking, can significantly boost your mood and general feelings of well-being.

7. Make a schedule change. Is there some task you have to do today that’s making you feel anxious and blue? Make sure you do that task first and maybe reward yourself with a short workday or a longer than usual break afterward. Not only will you feel relief having completed the unpleasant job, but the time off can also help clear out your mind.

So, there you have it. Seven quick ways to boost your mood and brighten up the gloomiest days. Have you tried any of the above strategies or have some of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.

Image credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

How to Cheaply Ship Delicate Items with the 2015 Shipping Price Changes

If your business involves the shipment of delicate items, such as electronics, art work, glass pieces, or fragile antiques, then the new shipping price changes that went into effect this year may result in higher shipping costs. But with a little know how, there are several things that you can do to help keep these costs to a minimum.

2015 Shipping Price ChangesBeginning this year, both UPS and FedEx, the two biggest shipping carriers in the US, officially changed the way they charge customers for lightweight shipments in large boxes. The change involves utilizing dimensional weight to calculate the billable weight of a shipment among ground and freight delivery services in order to promote packaging efficiency.

Why does this matter? The reality is that parcel carriers are increasingly challenged to maximize the space in their cargo planes and delivery vehicles. By focusing on the dimensional weight of the package, they hope to retain profitability, while encouraging shippers to evaluate the way their shipments are packaged and protected.

So what can you do to ensure that you are paying the least amount possible on shipping, yet still adequately protecting your shipped items? Here are some key points to consider:

First, make sure you understand the details of these shipping price changes. The change in dimensional weight pricing targets the biggest culprit of capacity inefficiency: lightweight shipments in comparatively large boxes. Parcel carriers have always applied a dimensional weight calculation to all air shipments and to ground shipments with a cubic capacity over 5,184 inches (3 cubic feet), so the change isn’t a revolutionary one. The dimensional weight formula for domestic Air and Ground shipments is: L x W x H / 166. In order to find out if your shipping costs will go up this year, you need to consider your most frequently used boxes and apply this formula. If the dimensional weight of that box exceeds the actual weight of the box plus packaging material and the weight of the product, then you will be paying more to ship that product.

Re-Evaluate your boxes and packing material. Are your boxes the right size for your product? What kind of packaging material are you using to protect your product, and how much of this material is being used? Ideally, your shipping box should have enough room for additional padding, but not be too big. Parcel carriers suggest that there be about 3 inches of space on each side between the wrapped, padded item and the walls of the box. Knowing how to properly pad the item is also important. FedEx has posted several packing tips with video that demonstrate the proper way to pad delicate items. You can see them here.

Take the time to research shipping options. Once you know the dimensional weight of your item, you can then go online and research various shipping arrangements to see which of the major carriers, FedEx, UPS, and the USPS, has the cheapest option. To get an idea of how much prices can vary depending on your shipping needs, take a look at this post over at My Wife Quit Her Job. Your best bet would be to use the shipping cost calculator provided on each carrier’s site or a shipping cost comparison tool.

Bottom line, if you put in the effort to accommodate these shipping changes, you may ultimately enjoy considerable savings instead of a price increase since you can save money by using the right shipping materials. Just be sure to do your research.

The Pitfalls of Using Personal Asset Loans to Fund Your Business

Even though the worst of the Recession has past us over, and there are signs that at least some parts of the economy have rebounded, the traditional credit markets are still closed to the vast majority of small business borrowers. While many types of alternative lenders have since emerged to help fill in the financing gap, lately the use of personal asset loans has been garnering a lot of attention and popularity. But, do the risks outweigh the benefits of this kind of short-term financing?

What Are Personal Asset Loans?

Should you use personal asset loans to fund your business?While most people have heard about home equity loans or securing a bank loan with a valuable personal asset, the new class of personal asset loans work a bit differently. They are short-term loans that are secured with “luxury assets,” things like boats, classic cars, fine art, antiques, gold, and jewelry. You can think of the lenders that offer these products as a kind of “luxury pawnbroker.”

To get started, borrowers will need to fill out an application in which they describe the asset and the estimated market value. After the item has been appraised, the lender will typically offer borrowers 50-70% of their asset’s resale value. Loans of this type tend to range between $5,000 and $100,000 dollars with a 2-4% monthly interest rate, and the repayment period is generally no more than six to twelve months. If borrowers accept the terms of the contract, then the money is usually wired to them within 24 hours.

Should You Use Personal Asset Loans to Fund Your Business?

The answer to whether or not you should be using this kind of financing for your business really depends on your situation. If you can’t repay your loan, you will lose your valuable assets. So, you would first have to be certain that you can either repay on time or be comfortable with giving up the item(s) used to secure the loan. Plus, since the average interest rate of 2.49 to 3.99 percent is monthly, personal asset loans are more expensive than they seem. A monthly interest of 2.5-4% works out to 30-60% annually. Finally, once your business starts generating income, you will likely have other, less risky financing options to choose from that are based on business assets as opposed to your personal ones. The most prevalent choices include: business cash advances based on future credit card sales or total revenues, invoice factoring, and equipment leasing.

In short, personal asset loans are filling a need in the alternative business financing landscape, but they are definitely not for everyone. Once your business is generating revenues, you may have better options.

3 Business Trends That Will Revolutionize Small Business in 2015

Around this time of the year, an assortment of small business experts take out their crystal balls and make predictions about what the next twelve months or so will bring. While many of the these potential future trends are important to be aware of, sometimes events come together to create a literal transformation in the way we do things.

Business Trends in 2015The following three business trends promise to totally revolutionize the way that small businesses operate. They don’t just represent popular movements or tendencies, but rather a paradigm shift in the way business is conducted.

1. The merging of online identity and the off-line world. After the launch of Apple Pay last October, many people were quick to suggest that mobile payments will see a surge in prevalence and popularity. While that may be true, the move by Apple is actually ushering in a more important trend. Apple has over 800 million accounts tied to credit cards, a loyal customer following, and data on users’ browsing behaviors as well as app usage. Every time an Apple customer uses Apple Pay to make a purchase, he or she is providing valuable data to Apple that can then be used to provide a personalized online user experience. We’re not just talking about mobile payments, but a merging of consumers’ online identity and habits with their off-line behavior and purchases.

2. The rise of dynamic pricing. With dynamic pricing, your prices on products or services change based on several factors including: demand, customer location, competition, and seasonality. Dynamic pricing as a practice is not a new concept. Airlines, event venues and hotels have been using dynamic pricing models for decades, and many big online retailers, such as Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart, rely on sophisticated applications and algorithms to instantly make personalized price changes.

What has changed is the number of vendors offering dynamic pricing solutions to small businesses- especially those that conduct business online. As mobile payments become more prevalent and online identities merge with offline purchases, even brick and mortar businesses could benefit from an app-based dynamic pricing solution to experiment with the market, spur demand during slow periods and maximize profits.  There is also plenty of room for creativity. Consider what this San Diego bar did to engage customers while learning about their buying habits and maximizing profits.

3. Alternative business financing will make great leaps towards becoming the “new traditional.” Like dynamic pricing above, alternative, non-bank lending is far from a new concept. In fact, the practice of factoring in particular has actually been around for centuries.

Ever since the Great Recession hit a few years ago, and banks and most traditional commercial lenders basically closed the door on small business lending, a wave of alternative lenders have come on the scene to fill in the funding gap. But, the industry as a whole has got a bad rap, mostly due to a small pool of predatory lenders and fly by night operations, and it has yet to gain main stream appeal.

All of this is set to change, however, given the number of high-profile IPOs in the alternative lending space that have been taking shape over the last few months. This includes the likes of OnDeck Capital and peer-to-peer lending platform The Lending Club. Many have suggested that these IPOs are not really about raising money, but more about raising public awareness. Given that banks are still being reluctant to lend to the nation’s smallest businesses, even with real signs of an economic recovery, alternative lending, such as business cash advances, invoice factoring, and micro loans, will only grow forcing small business owners to think more in terms of short-term financing rather than long term funding.

So, what do you think? Do you see how each of these business trends is poised to make a big splash in the coming year for smaller companies? Let us know in the comments below.

(Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/)

Want to Retain Key Employees in 2015? Promote Collaboration & Career Development

One of the biggest challenges that small businesses are facing today is in hiring employees that can truly help their business grow… and getting these people to stick around long enough to see that growth happen. Not only are today’s workers more likely to job hop then those of the previous generations, but small businesses must often compete with larger companies that can afford to offer an alluring package of benefits and career opportunities.

Retain Key Employees in 2015 with Collaboration & Career DevelopmentSo what can small business owners do to attract talented employees and get them to stay? Often the solution is to find creative ways to tap into the talents you are looking for, and that process starts with understanding what your employees really want out of their work and life in the first place.

In a recent study from Addison Group, it was found that Millennials (those aged 20 to 34), which represents the biggest, growing section of the workforce, prefer work environments that foster development and collaboration. When asked what qualities they want most in their managers:

  • 63% said the ability to give honest feedback
  • 58% said experience in the field
  • 56% said trustworthiness
  • 37% said the ability to makes time for employees
  • 36% said collaborative

Millennials also tend to place more value on collaboration and relationship building among co-workers and even managers than their Gen X and Baby Boomer peers. In LinkedIn’s latest Relationships @Work study, Millennials rely on workplace friendships to boost their mood and output:

  • 57% said friendships make them feel happy
  • 50% said friendships were motivating
  • 39% said friendships made them more productive

On the other hand, almost half the workers surveyed between the ages of 55-65 reported that friendships at work had nothing to do with their performance on the job.

Moreover, Millennial workers are looking for companies that can provide them with a defined path for career development as well as interesting and useful training opportunities.

How does this all translate to your small business? With fewer employees and a less formal structure, small businesses tend to be more intimate and collaborative by nature. Plus, the smaller number of employees often means that workers get to cross train in various different aspects of the business. They also have more opportunities for meaningful input and ownership over the results. But at the same time, many small businesses trip themselves up by not promoting these opportunities to potential new hires.

In short, success will be dependent not just on your budget, but on your ability to give your employees a sense of ownership, camaraderie, purpose, and personal development- qualities that they can’t always easily achieve in a bigger company. In the end they will be more likely to want to build and grow with you because they will get a sense of who they could become as a result.

Leverage 3D Printing in Your Small Business Without Buying a Printer

The 3D printing industry has been generating a lot of attention lately, and it’s with good reason. While the concept has actually existed for three decades, over the past few years 3D printer technology and equipment has gotten much more accurate, faster, and cheaper. This has generated a 3D printing market for both small business and even home use, and this market is expanding rapidly. In fact, sales of printers, materials, and services will reach about $3.8 billion this year, compared to $2.5 billion last year, and is expected to top $16 billion by the year 2018.

3d Printing for Small Business and consumersFor small business owners and entrepreneurs in particular, 3D printing technology represents a quick, cost effective way to get their hands on product prototypes and even conduct small scale manufacturing and processing. Artists are able to create and quickly replicate unique items and designs for sale. Toy makers routinely use 3D printing to make small figurines or action figures. Jewelry designers use 3D printing to create original works such as rings, bracelets, and pendants in a range of materials including precious metals. 3D printers have even been used to create human prosthetics, cars, and bikes.

While the possibilities may seem endless, one of the biggest drawbacks to this technology is the cost of the equipment. Even though prices have been coming down, most serious 3D printers on the market still cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars.

If a 3D printer is out of your budget, you can still leverage this technology in your small business. Here are three possible options:

Online 3D Printing Services. Over the past couple of years a number of online companies have cropped up that allow users to create digital designs and have them printed and then shipped to them or directly to their customers. Some platforms even allow users to set up their own online storefront to both showcase and sell their designs. Currently, the most popular online 3D printing services include:


Local 3D Hubs. 3D Hubs is an online network and community that connects consumers and small businesses with local 3D printers and their services. 3D Hubs now has an international presence and allows those in need to 3D printing to track down a local 3D printer for jobs both big and small. The advantage of turning to a local printer is that it tends to be cheaper especially if the quantity needed is very small. Items can also be picked up that day.

Professional 3D Printing Shops. The fact that so many small businesses and entrepreneurs are embracing 3D printing technology has not been lost on some of the biggest brands catering to consumers and the small business community. Case in point, UPS, Staples, and Radio Shack have all made recent forays into 3D printing services.

So the bottom line is, even if you don’t have the money to invest in a 3D printer, there are plenty of ways you can still take advantage of this technology to help drive your business forward.

Are You Tapping into Webrooming to Increase Sales in Your Retail Store?

Not so long ago, retailers of all sizes were worried about a trend called showrooming- where consumers go to a physical store to look at a product and then shop online for that same product at a cheaper price. But according to a recent study, it seems consumer buying habits have flipped around, and that spells good news for small, independent retailers in particular.

What is webrooming?In October, GfK published the results to their annual FutureBuy® shopping study. One of their key findings is that the practice of showrooming seems to be declining while webrooming is now on the rise. With webrooming, consumers research products online, then go into a physical store to actually make the purchase. While it used to be that people would rely on webrooming for major purchases, such as appliances, big ticket electronics, and furniture, now consumers are doing this even for relatively small purchases, like health and beauty products.

According to the study, there are several motivations behind the webrooming trend: wanting to avoid shipping costs, wanting to physically see and feel the product before buying; wanting to get the products instantly, and being able to return products more easily.

So how can your retail store tap into the webrooming trend? Here are three strategies:

1. Make sure your web presence is optimized for local search. There is a lot that goes into optimizing your website and accounts on other platforms, including social media. Basically, your goal is to help search engines, such as Google, and local search directories know that your business exists, as well as where it is located, and what specific products and services it offers. You also want to connect your online profiles with other, helpful business-specific information, such as customer reviews, contact information, and hours of operation. I know that this sounds like a lot, but, once you understand the process, it is pretty straight forward even if it may involve a little grunt work. To get you started, here are several good resources to check out:

2. Use highly targeted online advertising. Though there are many ways to advertise a business online, when it comes to local businesses, you will probably have the most success with the pay-per-click model. This form of advertising is not just Adwords, it also includes social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest. Which platforms you will actually advertise on will be dependent on where your target audience “hangs out” online. What is really great about this form of advertising is that you can choose to target very specific groups of people or keywords which will help to ensure that your ad is being seen in the right places.

Another option to look into is banner advertisements on any blogs or websites that target a local audience. Again, this comes back to understanding where your ideal customers tend to spend their time online.

3. Make sure your retail location and online presence taps into the motivations behind webrooming. As mentioned above, according to the GfK study, consumers have several motivations for their webrooming habit. Make sure your online and in-store presence taps into those motivations. For example, you can promote an easy return policy, invite customers to come to your store and take a look at the products while getting helpful advice from staff about how to use them, or offer discounted shipping for big items.

Whatever strategies you end up doing, webrooming is one trend that you should not ignore. The potential payout for your retail location can be big, providing you a much welcomed boost in revenues.

The Best POS and Accounting Apps for Small Businesses in 2015

As the year comes to an end, it’s the perfect time to take stock of how your business is performing and try to identify the areas that need improvement. Whether you and your business openly embrace technology, you have been putting off making some necessary upgrades, or you tend to be a bit technophobic, there is a variety of really simple tools out there that can dramatically improve the way you manage your small business. And, the best part is that almost all of these apps are either free or low cost.

Accounting Apps and POS SoftwareSo, without further ado, here’s a roundup of the best accounting apps and software for any small business owner who wants to start the new year off on the right foot:

Mobile Point of Sale Apps

Flint Mobile

With Flint Mobile all you need is a smart phone in order to accept credit card payments. No separate card reader is needed. Instead, small businesses take credit card payments by scanning in the customer’s card number. What’s more, Flint Mobile can also send invoices for online bill payment, handle cash and checks and manage customized coupons, and that’s just the beginning of the feature list. The Flint Mobile app is free to download. The current transaction fees are 1.95 percent for debit card payments and 2.95 percent for credit cards. There are currently no fees for managing cash, checks, invoices or coupons.


One of the first serious mobile payments options for independent small businesses, Square is still a good option to check out- especially if your business only occasionally needs mobile payment processing. With Square, there are no monthly fees, no contracts and no merchant accounts, but you will be charged a 2.75 transaction fee for every swipe, online sale, or paid Square invoice. If you key in the number, then the fee jumps to 3.5% + 15 cents. Square links directly with your bank account and accepts payments from all major credit card companies.

Intuit QuickBooks Payments

If you are a QuickBooks user, then you may want to consider Intuit’s QuickBooks Payments App. At $19.95 a month, the app will automatically sync with your accounting software, making your accounting and invoicing a breeze. The card reader needed for swiping credit cards is free, and transaction fees are competitive, at 1.75 percent of total sales. Intuit also offers a pay-as-you-go option for merchants that’s similar to Square’s pricing plan. The swipe rate for the plan, which has no monthly fee, is 2.40 percent per transaction.

PayPal Here

Whether you’re a fan of Paypal or not, you’ve got to admit that the online payments and money transfers platform has got a virtual monopoly in Internet-based payments- especially among those living outside of the US. For that reason alone PayPal’s mobile payments offering, PayPal Here, is something to consider. In addition to accepting credit and debit card payments from customers, your customers can also make payments from their mobile PayPal accounts. The cost per transaction is 2.7 percent of the final sale, and there are no additional setup costs or monthly fees.


PayAnyware is a pretty straightforward solution with no monthly fees, setup costs or monthly minimum sales requirements. It works similar to Square, with a flat-rate pricing plan of 2.69 percent per swipe. The app and card reader are both free.

Cloud Based Accounting Apps

Sage One

There are several proprietary offerings in the area of cloud based accounting that make the transaction recording and number crunching part of running a small business a breeze. Sage One is a good example, putting most of the accounting aspects of running a business on autopilot. The interface is also very simplistic and easy to follow.

Zoho Books

Zoho Books offers an assortment of features to help business owners manage their finances in real-time. The basic feature list includes: invoice management and payment processing, expense tracking, and financial reporting. There are a bunch of powerful add-ons, too. One of the pluses of using Zoho Books is that it integrates seamlessly with Zoho’s other business apps.


If you are on a tight budget, then the free Nutcache is best the option for you hands down. It’s a robust feature-rich platform that has already a die hard following of users. Nutcache can support multiple languages, unlimited invoicing, time tracking, and payment processing functions.


FreeAgent is a cloud-based accounting application that is especially designed for freelancers who handle multiple clients and projects. It enables them to manage various aspects of their business including client data, project information, time and expenses. FreeAgent makes it easy to invoice customers, track expenses, and synchronize bank accounts- all from one simple interface.


Quickbooks is the oldest cloud-based accounting platform of the lot, and it’s with good reason. Backed by Intuit, notable for its revolutionary tax software, Quickbooks is the most robust option out there. Aside from sales management, expense tracking, and applying sales tax, Quickbooks allows you to track payments through multiple pathways including: automated online banking, creating estimates, and invoice management. Plus, Quickbooks works across multiple platforms and mobile devices.

Did I leave any apps out? Had any experience using the platforms mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below.

(Image Credit)

Is Your Business Ready for Small Business Saturday?

If you own a brick and mortar store, then one of the biggest boosts you can give to your holiday sales is to be an active participant in Small Business Saturday which falls out on November 29th this year. It’s a day when communities across the US celebrate and support their local small businesses.

Is Your Business Ready for Small Business Saturday?I find it amazing how many small business owners spend a lot of time and effort trying to tap into the buying momentum of Black Friday, the mega shopping event that immediately follows Thanksgiving. The truth is the celebrated first day of the Christmas shopping season has absolutely nothing to do with small businesses. It’s meant for the big box retailers that can afford to offer steep discounts on inventory in an attempt to lure bargain-hungry holiday shoppers. You can read about the history of Black Friday here.

Small business owners, stay away… far away. Trying to lure shoppers to your small business with the promise of steep discounts or “door-buster” deals will only hurt your business and leave you with little to show for it- similar to how those Groupon deals did a few years back. Instead, the focus should be on rewarding loyal customers while trying to attract the buyers who will appreciate what your business has to offer (and come back for more.)

This is exactly the attitude behind Small Business Saturday which is a shopping event held on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. The initiative was started by American Express four years ago and has gained in popularity ever since. In this event, small businesses are encouraged to join forces under the “Shop Small” brand and where possible host community-wide events that will appeal to local shoppers.

If your community has yet to participate in this event, American Express offers an assortment of helpful resources on their website, such as a bunch of useful free marketing materials for both online and offline promotion. There are also several stories of businesses that were able to capitalize on the day to increase sales and brand awareness.

If you would like to get updates about local Small Business Saturday events or are looking for a little inspiration, you can follow the Small Business Saturday communities on both Facebook and Twitter.

Why Hasn’t the Number of Incorporated Self Employed Gone Up?

Earlier this week I saw an interesting post by Scott Shane over at Small Business Trends. In it, he pointed out an interesting trend based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the data, the number of incorporated self-employed individuals was 4 percent lower in September of this year than it was in June 2009.

Why Hasn't the Number of Incorporated Self Employed Gone Up?

While the actual number of incorporated self-employed (ie those who work for themselves in corporate entities) represents a relatively small percentage of entrepreneurial activity and an even smaller part of the American workforce (unincorporated self employed make up about 6 percent of the labor force versus incorporated self employed at only 3.5 percent), the stagnant growth seems puzzling.

After all, several economic indicators and respected reports, such as the Small Business Economic Trends report conducted by the NFIB, all point to an improving, expanding economy. Given that the incorporated self employed tend to earn twice as much as the unincorporated, why aren’t more aspiring entrepreneurs being encouraged by the rising sales at existing businesses to start their own ventures?

I think there are several possible explanations:

  • There is less financing available to get these start up businesses up and running. Let’s not forget that small businesses and start ups are still dealing with an extreme credit crunch. For most aspiring entrepreneurs, there are only two main options: rely on personal assets (which have also taken a hit due to the crash in the housing market, rock bottom interest rates, and stagnant wages), or turn to more expensive (and thus more risky) alternative lenders.
  • Fewer personal assets or access to outside financing means that starting up a business these days is a lot more risky than it was prior to the Recession when cash was flowing more freely. Since incorporated self-employed tend to be older and have a family, many may postpone starting a business or avoid working on it in a full time capacity because a business failure could affect their financial stability.
  • Even for all the rosy indicators and reports, the truth is that the economic recovery has been very uneven. Consumer demand is still very weak in important areas such as retail, and that’s likely due to the fact that wages and employment have not recovered anywhere close to their pre-recession levels even as taxes for small business owners and the middle class have gone up.

So, what do you think? Have you or people you know been considering starting your own business, but have held back due to the reasons mentioned above?

Image Credit: Small Business Trends