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(This post originally appeared on The Hill)

I was talking to a friend of mine recently who owns a construction company near Nashville, Tenn. Not surprisingly, it’s been a busy couple of years, and he’s certainly not complaining. Also not surprisingly, when I asked him what his biggest challenge is, he immediately told me it was finding good people.  “I have a chronic worker shortage,” he said.

Most businesses, particularly small businesses, are faced with the same challenge. The economy’s strong, unemployment is as low as it’s been in 50 years and talent is scarce. Some blame big companies who offer better pay and benefits. Others blame the government’s immigration policies.

My friend? He blames teachers.

Why teachers? “It’s simple,” he told me. “They look down on my business.”

I’m sure that most teachers and school administrators would disagree with my friend. In fact, over the past few years, there’s been a significant uptick in the number of schools and governments partnering with industries and local businesses in an effort to help both students and employers fill open positions.

There are many examples of this. A school district in Pennsylvania recently established a new Business and Industry Advisory Council with the aim of “building connections” between students and local companies. In Indiana, a school district unveiled a new partnership with a publicly held aviation services company that provides “hands-on learning to give students skills and knowledge to help prepare them for the aviation workforce.” In Kansas, a local high school created an internship program with local businesses for its seniors to match them “with careers they are interested in pursuing” and to “show students the different career options available to them.”

This is all great stuff, and the teachers and administrators behind these programs should be applauded. But my friend — and many other business owners like him — are still not happy.

Why? They feel they’re being left out, even pushed to the side because teachers are unconsciously navigating their students away from their companies and toward getting a college degree so that they can one day be engineers, managers and executives at the big companies that are partnering with their schools.

You can’t blame them. But college isn’t for everyone. And, considering the costs, more and more people I know are seriously questioning the ROI of a university education in lieu of just going out and learning a good trade. The problem is that most teachers come from a different a place.

“Teachers are biased,” my friend told me. “They don’t view the jobs my company offers as ‘good’ jobs. They think their students can ‘do better’ by going to college instead of building a career with me. They want their kids to get a degree and then work for a big company, not mine.” Many small-business owners in construction and manufacturing that I know agree.

Are they right? Is there an unconscious bias among our high school teachers that’s working against small-business hiring?

There may be. My wife has been a teacher for almost 20 years. Her colleagues are — across the board — smart, college-educated, dedicated professionals. To teach today you need, at a minimum, a university degree. Some high schools even require a master’s degree. Which means that the entire population of educators at the typical high school came up through the university system.

That’s what they know. It’s part of their DNA. It’s worked for them, and they want their students to do the same.  They want their students to get college degrees and work for well-known companies or the government, become doctors and lawyers, educators and artists, because that’s what — to them — defines success.

Meanwhile, small companies like my friend’s suffer. He’s offering a well-paying job. He’s willing to train his new employees and teach them skills that forever will allow them to put food on the table for their families. But he’s not looking for lawyers and doctors. He’s looking for welders, carpenters, pipefitters and estimators.  He’s also looking for good people to evolve into project managers and help him grow his 50-person company, once they’ve learned the tools of the trade, of course.

My friend’s company is one of the countless companies that make up those 7.5 million unfilled jobs today. His company – like so many small businesses – can provide a fulfilling career for many students that want to learn a trade. The government spends money on training workers for them. High schools are creating partnership programs with them. But what’s being done to educate the educators?

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(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

These days many a small business may be thinking about hiring a social media influencer to help create buzz about their business. It may be worthwhile. But for one owner of a small cafe in Melbourne, it turned into a disaster.

Con Katsiogiannis, in an effort to draw a cool crowd to his business, last year hired Chloe Roberts, a self-described “gym ambassador”, fellow Aussie and social media influencer. Roberts is no Kim Kardashian (who reportedly charges anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000 an Instagram post, if you believe that) but she’s no Instagram slouch either. As of this writing, she has about 128,000 followers who like to keep up on what she’s doing, where she’s eating and what her tan looks like.

Unfortunately, it was Katsiogiannis who got burned. That’s because of a dispute he had with Roberts, which had to be resolved by the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal.

In a handshake deal (first mistake) Katsiogiannis agreed to pay Roberts about A$200 (it later increased to $300) each time she posted a photo of herself enjoying a meal at his cafe. She did that. But then a debate arose around her policy of “archiving”. Small business owners: take note.

In the world of Instagram, every photo you take shows up on your followers’ streams and then disappears in the online ether unless you, the Instagrammer, archive the photo so that users can go back and scroll through your history. Many people do that automatically.

But not Roberts. Like many influencers, each post has a financial value and different influencers have different points of view for keeping paid posts around. Roberts told her client that 90% of the views of her images occurred within a week of posting, so that’s what he paid for. She also felt that archiving her photos clutters up her history and provides an inferior experience for her followers. Katsiogiannis was miffed that the photos of his cafe disappeared so quickly and demanded she keep them archived and available for those who want to see them.

All of this could have been easily resolved if there was just a written agreement. But there wasn’t one. So in the end the tribunal had to do their version of Judge Judy and, based only on the conflicting testimonies of the two parties, Katsiogiannis had to cough up an additional $1,676 in unpaid fees because, the tribunal found, “it would be very difficult for the client of an Instagram influencer to establish that it suffered damages if a post was archived prematurely”.

The lessons for a small business owner are obvious: treat an influencer just like any outside, arms-length party and have a written agreement. Also, address the issue of “archiving” because those posts go away quickly and if you want them to stick around in the influencer’s history you better bring up that issue during your negotiations.

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 — What Facebook’s latest video ranking updates mean for your small business.

Facebook has announced it will modify its News Feed algorithm to reward creators who publish video content that sees longer average watch times and generates more repeat views. In addition, Pages posting unoriginal or re-purposed videos will be penalized through limited access to visibility and monetization. This means small businesses should think about how to keep audiences coming back, should post their strongest images/video clips first, and should ensure content is original to get optimum visibility. (Source: Social Media Today

Why this is important for your business:

If you’re creating videos for your business you’ll need to step up your game. They need to be original, relevant and shorter. You need to track the views carefully and focus on the content that draws the most.  Emphasize quality over quantity.  Otherwise, all the work you put into your videos may be for naught because fewer people will ever get to see them.

2 — Lenovo is making an all-screen foldable laptop.

This week at its annual sales event, Lenovo introduced the ThinkPad X1 foldable prototype laptop after demonstrating a working prototype of the device earlier in May. The company says that it envisions the X1 replacing people’s daily computer because it provides a large-screen Windows device in a small package. The price for the new device hasn’t been revealed yet, but Lenovo’s X1 line of products is generally reserved for its high-end computers. (Source: Quartz)

Why this is important for your business:

Foldable devices are coming. Many of the major makers – from Samsung to Lenovo – are starting to bring to market with this type of hardware and although most are pricey you can expect costs to decline in the not-so-distant future. Once these devices are more mature, you and your employees will be relying on them for travel and customer presentations.

3 — Over 25,000 smart Linksys routers are leaking sensitive data.

This week, a Bad Packets security researcher discovered that more than 25,000 Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers—mostly in the U.S.—could be vulnerable to remote exploit by attackers. This could lead to the leak of sensitive information such as MAC addresses, device names, operating system types, and even WAN settings, firewall status, firmware update settings, and DDNS configurations. Such leaks could help hackers compromise IoT routers and steal data and could also lead to potential enslavement into botnet setups.

Linksys says: “We responded to a vulnerability submission from Bad Packets on May 7th, 2019 regarding a potential sensitive information disclosure flaw: CVE-2014-8244 (which was fixed in 2014). We quickly tested the router models flagged by Bad Packets using the latest publicly available firmware (with default settings) and have not been able to reproduce CVE-2014-8244; meaning that it is not possible for a remote attacker to retrieve sensitive information via this technique. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business:

This incident should serve as a reminder that, whether you think you’re affected or not, you really should download the most recent firmware updates for routers – Linksys or not – and make sure that you’re running the most recent software.

4 — Small-business owners are stressed and struggling to unplug, data shows.

A new survey by OnePoll on behalf of GoDaddy shows that small-business owners spend 17 days a year worrying about business-related issues outside working hours. In addition, more than half (51%) say they have trouble switching off from work during periods when they’re not supposed to be focusing on company-related tasks. In fact, 41% say they often get pulled into business matters when trying to unplug. (Source: Yahoo! Finance)

Why this is important for your business:

According to the above report, experts suggest scheduling breaks during the week, taking vacations, outsourcing, and practicing self-care in order to ease the tension. Wasn’t technology supposed to make our life better?

5— WiFi 6: better, faster internet is coming—here’s what you need to know.

WiFi 6 is making its debut this year, and, in addition to the fact that it’s 30% faster than WiFi 5, there’s more to know. First of all, it’s an upgraded standard that compatible devices, particularly routers, can take advantage of.  It’s designed to allow network access points like routers communicate more efficiently with more users and devices at once, which helps them use less power. Wi-Fi 6 routers will be able to pack more information into each signal they send, so they can communicate with devices faster and more efficiently. And, best of all, Wi-Fi 6 access points will also be smarter about scheduling when devices should wake up and request information.  (Source: CNET)

Why this is important for your business:

As you invest in network upgrades, be sure that you’re moving to routers that support WIFI 6.

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(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)

Online review sites, like Yelp and Google, are an important part of many businesses’ success. A few great reviews can create a buzz.  A few bad ones? Well…

As a business owner you can’t ignore bad reviews or blame them on people being jerks (although I admit that will happen occasionally). But three new studies collectively show that you may be able to blame someone else: Mother Nature.

Researchers at Ohio State University collected customer reviews from 32 Florida restaurants and found something interesting: more negative reviews were left on comment cards by customers on rainy days versus dry days. And not by a little, either. The odds of getting a bad review when the weather was lousy increased almost three-fold. Higher temperatures and barometric pressure were also linked to the Florida respondents. Whether or not these were just a bunch of cranky old people was not taken into consideration.

“Restaurants can’t control the weather, but it may affect how customers review them,” Milos Bujisic, co-author of the study and assistant professor of hospitality management at The Ohio State University told Science Daily.

Anyone who suffered through the 2000 elections can tell you that it’s never a good idea to rely solely on any information coming out of Florida. Knowing that this could be fatal for their research, our plucky scientists from Ohio State wisely decided to repeat their exercise elsewhere. They polled another 158 people from around the country within a day of a restaurant visit and asked them to describe their experience — and the weather. The people who remembered the weather being good were more inclined to rate the restaurant positively. The people that couldn’t remember where they ate the previous day, or even the weather, were offered jobs at The White House.

A third study of 107 people in the Midwest, Northeast and Northwest regions of the country using similar questions yielded similar results. And yes, I’m kidding about the White House. Really.

None of these studies actually tested a customer’s online reviews, and we all know people can behave differently when leaving a review from the anonymity on Yelp or Google. Given how obnoxious some people are online, my bet is that the negative reviews would have been even worse. But the bottom line is still irrefutable: Lousy weather can turn into lousy reviews for your business.

It’s good information, and if you’re running a service business or a restaurant it’s worth taking note. Stepping up your game when the forecast is bad is probably worthwhile. You can offer special discounts or promotions to your customers but, better yet, is focusing on your employees.

That’s because, despite the delightful experience of having you as a boss, it’s probable that your people are in a worse mood than your customers when the weather turns bad. Can you blame them? Not only did they get up early to wash dishes and clean up after slobs, but they’re doing it on a gloomy day to boot. “A rainy day may put employees in a bad mood and that will affect their service,” one of the researchers said. “Managers need to explain that to their employees and work to keep them motivated.”

So bad weather means worse customer reviews. What will you do now that you know this information? Play happier music? Turn up the lighting? Offer more breaks? Cough up a few extra bucks?  Tell a few more dumb jokes?

Please, not that.

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(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

The hot fintech startup genius. That amazing e-commerce savant who created a billion-dollar company selling shoes from her apartment. The cool owner of a cosmetics line. The game-changing inventor of an eco-friendly toothpaste. These are tomorrow’s business owners, right? No, not even close.

Although the media loves to write and feature all of these sexy, young, exciting millennial entrepreneurs, they are far from representative of the people who are actually running small businesses in America in 2019. The majority of small business entrepreneurs are baby boomers.

That’s according to an email survey of more than 2,700 male and female small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs from across the US that was conducted by the small business financing company Guidant Financial and the online credit marketplace LendingClub Corporation.

The survey, which was released this week, found that 57% of small business owners were born between 1946 and 1964. The boomers – who primarily work in business services, food, restaurant and health and the beauty and fitness industries –overwhelmingly employ two or more people and have the same challenges that most other small business owners have: cashflow and growth. Added to that are aching backs, failing eyesight and an increasing reliance on subtitles when watching anything on television.

“In 1996, about 20% of small business owners were over 50. Our survey shows that there is a massive shift toward baby boomer-owned businesses – nearly 300%,” said David Nilssen, the chief executive of Guidant Financial. “This generation of entrepreneurs has had a huge and growing impact on small business in America and will continue to.”

Why is this so important to know? Because this is small business America, folks.

I see these people every time I speak at business conferences or visit prospective clients in the Philadelphia area, where my business is located. They are mostly men (77%, according to the Guidant/LendingClub survey) that have been running their companies for more than 10 years. During this time, they – like me – have seen it all. We remember when Japan’s economy was going to take over the world, the Soviet Union was threatening life as we know it and Dubai was nothing but sand. We remember the days when employees actually showed up to work, customers weren’t paying with bitcoin and phones had rotary dials. We crushed on Marcia Brady, feared the Dallas Cowboys and drank Coke with real sugar.

If you’re looking to sell to small businesses, then it’s important to understand these demographics.

Your customers are probably not on Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram (in fact, only 22% of Americans are on Twitter, and 10% of them make up more than 80% of the activity, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center). We’re more inclined to pick up the phone when you call us. We attend meetings of our industry associations in Vegas and Orlando once or twice a year. We probably lean a little to the right. We eat red meat and still don’t understand the complexities of recycling. We are always looking for the best exit from our business so that we can spend more time with our grandchildren. We’re eyeing an escape to Tucson once the weather turns cold.

Get it? The great majority of business owners in this country are, on average, old. And as life expectancy grows we’re just going to get older. Look around at the people running gas stations, pizza shops, landscaping businesses, roofing companies and industrial packaging distributors. We may not be as sexy or even as interesting as those millennial startups. But that’s who we are.

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(This post originally appeared on Philly.com)

Is letting your employees work from home a good idea? That depends. Some companies – and people – are more suited to the arrangement than others.

Research has shown that remote working could make employees feel less engaged, isolated and disconnected from their coworkers, and that could lead to more mistakes, miscommunication, and a lack of productivity. Other studies, such as one recently conducted at the Wharton School, have found that for some employees, the loneliness of working from home could have a significantly negative impact on their performance.

Researcher Dan Schawbel, an employment expert and consultant, even found that work-from-home arrangements could decrease the long-term likelihood that an employee will stay with a company.

“When you don’t see or hear your colleagues over a long period of time, you can become less committed to your team and organization — and start looking for your next opportunity — since no one is looking over your shoulder while you job search,” Schawbel wrote recently in the Harvard Business Review.

But none of these downsides is stopping today’s workers from wanting more flexibility and independence from their employers.

For example, 47 percent of job seekers said in interviews with job search site Indeed.com last year that having a work-from-home policy is an “important factor” in choosing a job. A majority of respondents in the same study who work for companies without a remote-work policy admitted that they often feel “frustrated.” That’s the reason why almost 40 percent of companies worldwide now offer some form of remote and in-office options, according to a 2018 study from the International Workplace Group, a provider of remote work spaces worldwide.

“We know from psychological and organizational behavior research that autonomy is basically one of the most important drivers of intrinsic motivation,” Naomi Rothman, associate professor of management at Lehigh University, said. “When people have control over how they go about doing their work and when they do their work and where they do their work, it creates a lot of sense of responsibility over your work. That is very motivating for people.”

But unemployment is at a 50-year low and it’s a very competitive environment to find good employees. So many businesses, particularly small businesses, are considering a work-from-home policy just to be competitive with their larger counterparts. So how to best do this?

Depends on the job

For starters, offer this benefit only when it makes sense. It would be great if you could allow every employee who wants to work from home the ability to do so. But that’s not reality.

Your employees on the production floor, for example, will not likely be able to operate a machine from their home. You may need your accounting manager to be present most days in the office just because of the nature of the work. Or you may want employees to earn the right to work from home after they’ve shown their commitment by working for you for a few years.

Your remote-worker policy should be flexible enough to ensure that the work you need to get done gets done and should vary by job, responsibility and tenure.

No guarantees

Make no guarantees. Although it sounds like a great idea, working from home is not for everyone.

There are the obvious distractions, such as daytime TV and a warm bed. Some people simply work better in an office environment than others. They need the structure, the camaraderie, and the social environment to be at their most productive.

That doesn’t mean you don’t offer a work-from-home option for your employees. Most employment experts recommend a trial period — maybe 60 or 90 days. That way, you and your employee can both determine whether the setup is working the right way and give yourselves a methodology for evaluating its success and making changes.

Tech preparedness

For a work-from-home employee to succeed, you must also invest in the right technology.

The employee must have access to the same systems and data as would be available in the office. Using a cloud-based application or making your systems and files available through a remote connection or through a managed services company will ensure that remote employees can easily work from their home devices.

Ensuring that these employees are connected to your office systems for text and instant messaging, email and phone calls is essential. Your employee, meanwhile, must have a decent internet connection as well as the necessary devices at home — laptop, printer, phone — so that work can be performed as if in the office.

You should feel comfortable demanding the same — actually more — accessibility from your remote worker.

That’s because when an employee is remote, others will likely raise their eyebrows. “It won’t be the same,” some will say. You and your remote workers have to prove otherwise. That means that when they are called on the phone, asked to participate in meetings, messaged, emailed or otherwise contacted, they should be responding as fast — actually faster — than as if they were in your office.

If your company is using video technology, no one expects to see that person in a bathrobe just because they’re at home. There should be no scenario where your remote worker is unreachable without permission.

Office time

Ideally, any remote-working arrangement should include office time. The best ones I’ve seen aren’t completely remote. On a regular basis — weekly, monthly, quarterly — the remote employee is required to be physically present in the office where possible.

“Sometimes it’s just easier to be face to face,” Veronica Gilrane, a People Analytics Manager at Google — where more than 100,000 employees are spread over 150 cities in 50 countries — wrote in a blog. “When you do have the opportunity to meet for face-to-face interactions, take advantage in order to reinforce connections forged virtually.”

So, yes, there can be challenges for both you and your employees when setting up a work-from-home arrangement. But done the right way, such a policy can not only help you cut costs, but also provide a much demanded benefit that can help you attract — and retain — good people in the long term.

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Mailchimp, the popular email marketing software that’s enjoyed by millions of users around the world, is announcing a new Marketing CRM module.

Duh.

I say duh because, well, isn’t it obvious? I can’t count the number of times that, when asked what CRM application they use, a small business owner replies to me with “Mailchimp” or “Constant Contact” or “Emma” or any number of a group of email marketing platforms.

But the thing is, these applications are not CRM applications.  They are, as just mentioned, email marketing platforms.  They allow their users to create campaigns, design templates, send out professional looking emails and then track the results. They also give these users the ability to store multiple lists of contacts targeted for their campaigns.

A CRM application does a lot more than just emails, of course. It provides for the nurturing of customers and prospects and provides information that helps companies sell more to them. The best ones manage contacts, accounts, leads, opportunities, quotes, orders, service tickets and other points of data entry. They integrate with calendars, email systems, websites and accounting applications. They track communications, activities, forecasted sales and completed calls. They remind when to contact a prospect, reach out to a customer or follow-up on a problem. That’s just a fraction of what CRM systems do.

The smart people at Mailchimp realized long ago that their product doesn’t do this. But I can attest that many of their customers think it does. So the solution is…drumroll: to just do it. Which is why this week the company launched a new CRM platform along with a website builder tool and pricing structure.

“Our email marketing product has helped millions of businesses grow, but our customers have been asking for years for us to build something that would enable them to do all of their marketing in one place,” Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp’s co-founder and CEO wrote in a company blog. “Small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have time to manage three, four, or five different platforms that each serve one specific purpose, and they don’t want their data all over the place: They need a tool powered by data and expertise that will help them know where to invest their marketing dollars.”

The new application will enable their users to be able to keep their data under one roof and then better use AI and workflows to leverage this information. It will give them new ways to search, share, tag and organize their data and evaluate a customer’s lifetime value. There will be expanded profiles of contacts so a user can dig into the actions that led up to a purchase, take notes and update a database with preferences and demographics.

“We believe with the all in one platform we’re creating we’re really hoping to establish what it means to be in all one platform for small businesses,” said Darcy Kurtz, the company’s VP of Product Marketing told AdWeek. “We feel we have the permission and credibility that we need to play in this space.”

Mailchimp is being careful.

I believe they want to offer what they’re calling a “Marketing CRM” product without stepping on the toes of their many CRM partners. This is why the application lacks basic contact management features, like calendars, activities, emails and transactions typically found in a full-blown CRM.  Don’t hold your breath, though. I think it’s inevitable that Mailchimp will add this functionality in the not-too-distant future and let its customers decide their preference.  Why? Because they have to.

A few other well-known small business marketing platforms like Hubspot have gone into the CRM business. And popular CRM platforms like Zoho have gone into the marketing business. These companies are doing this because small companies are getting tired of jumping into and out of multiple applications, sweating through integration projects, suffering when connected systems stop connecting and bleeding from the cost of paying developers and implementers (like my firm) to do the work, only to have to do it again and again once something breaks or changes.

So who’s next to jump on the CRM train? I’m betting a few of Mailchimp’s excellent competitors like Constant Contact and Emma are making their plans. Why wouldn’t they? Their customers already think those platforms are CRM. They might as well live up to those expectations.

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Last week, Facebook announced three changes to its an algorithm that, in the end, will make it more difficult for your company and mine to get our videos viewed.

The company is tweaking the underlying code that determines where and how often information – particularly videos – come up on a user’s News Feed. If a video is determined to have less watch times, less repeat views or is deemed unoriginal or re-purposed then it will be pushed down on a user’s feed. That means less access, less views, less visibility and – if this is part of your advertising revenue stream – less money.

“We want to help talented video creators find their audience and build profitable video businesses on Facebook,” David Miller, a product management director at the company wrote in a blog post. “We want to help media companies — whether large, small, global, or local — continue their invaluable work. And above all, we want to help people on Facebook discover great videos and build relationships with the creators and publishers that matter to them.”

The company is now emphasizing three big things:  loyalty and intent, viewing duration and originality. And can you blame them? There’s currently a lot of noise on the social media platform and for a long time users have complained about irrelevant and unhelpful videos – not to mention annoying advertisements – that show up on their page and which don’t provide them any value. Back in the day, it was all about the quantity of content. Now companies like Facebook and Google are stressing its quality. Hey Netflix, are you listening?

What impact does this have on my business and yours? If, like me, you’re active on Facebook then we’re all going to be forced to step up our game. That means spending more time, resources and money on producing relevant, quality, original content. Just re-posting someone else’s stuff isn’t going to cut it anymore. Nor will buying canned videos or creating content just for the purpose of creating more content, instead of something of more value.

“While there are numerous factors that determine video distribution on Facebook, these changes will benefit video distribution for Pages that create original content people want to watch and come back to.” Smith wrote. “We’ll continue to improve video ranking to show videos that people value and to help great video makers reach more people on Facebook.”

So how to respond? I recommend that we all take these three steps.

Re-visit our past videos. I plan to spend a few hours analyzing which of my past videos were the most popular and which ones would make Facebook happy. I’ll use their metrics – viewing duration, number of views and originality – as my benchmarks. For the ones that fared well I plan to do more of the same. For the duds I’ll make sure not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Post less often. I will change the rules about posting. Up until now I had this “requirement” of 2-3 posts a day because I believed it was fulfilling some kind of mystical obligation to the social media Gods. But now it will be about quality, not quantity.  I can go a week without posting if that week was used to create something really good. Facebook will elevate that good content and make up for the time that lapsed between posts with more views. In the end, that will benefit my Page – and my community – even more.

Finally, make better videos. I will need to stop being lazy and just re-purpose videos just for the sake of putting content out there. Instead, I’ll invest more time and effort into making better, more relevant content. That means specific advice for the products I sell and interviews with clients where their insights could help others. I’m also planning on more online training and free tips. I know that some of these videos will fare better than others, so I’ll need to continue to track that too.

***

So yes, Facebook’s recent video ranking change will present some challenges. But things change and oftentimes – especially in this case – that change is for the better. I’m a fan of better quality. Now I’ll need to live it.

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 – Microsoft introduces a few cool small business tools at its Build conference.

Microsoft’s annual developer conference, Build 2019, attracted 15,000 programmers, developers, partners and coders to hear about all the new tools that the company is introducing to help them build better solutions for their clients. Although most of the stuff the company announced are technical tools, there were some announcements that will impact small businesses very soon.  They are improved Power BI and Power Apps, Microsoft Search and Ideas in Word. (My company is a Microsoft partner but I’ve received no compensation to write this). (Source:  Venturebeat)

Why this is important for your business:

Power Bi is Microsoft’s reporting and analytics product. Power Apps are add-in tools for Microsoft applications developed by their developer channel. Both now have new tools for easier creation, updating and integration with other applications. Microsoft Search has been enhanced with AI to search just about anything on your corporate network. Ideas in Word will be providing a natural language processing editor that will make real-time suggestions and help protect your workers from writing anything politically incorrect or sensitive.  All of this should improve your company’s productivity and the quality of its communications.

2 – Facebook introduces four new tools for small businesses.

In honor of National Small Business Week, Facebook introduce a few tools specifically targeted at small businesses, including automated ads, appointments, new video creation and editing tools and training courses. Its automated ad functions are the most powerful and include a wizard-like Q&A interview, suggestions, multiple ad versions to choose from as well as customer targeting and budgeting recommendations. It’s video editing tools include automatic cropping, video trimming and image and text overlays.  The appointment features gives Facebook businesses a self-service option that their customers can use. (Source: Marketing Land)

Why this is important for your business:

Tens of millions of small businesses rely on Facebook for their sales, marketing and customer service. Advertising, in particular, has always been a mystery and oftentimes requires the expense of a consultant. Hopefully, these tools will improve your experienced with the social media platform…and cut costs too.

3 – A survey warns that although Google My Business is popular, don’t abandon your website.

Google My Business has grown in popularity. So does this mean you should abandon your website?  According to a new survey, probably not. Of the customers polled by marketing software provider BrightLocal, a majority of consumers feel that the website of a small business is likely more accurate than their Google My Business listing.  (Source: BrightLocal)

Why this is important for your business:

There’s no question that you should have a Google My Business listing – it’s easy to setup and will help get your company found. But this doesn’t mean that you should be using your Google listing in place of your website. Not only does your website have more functionality but the perception is that it’s more accurate. And it probably is.

4 – An online video creation platform is making YouTube video ads more accessible to small businesses.

Tel Aviv-based Promo.com has introduced new tools to help small businesses post branded video ads across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube that they say is more affordable than hiring a video production team.  The company boasts 12 million pre-created videos across many topics along with pre-built templates for customers to add logos, text, fonts and colors, as well as pre-licensed music. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business:

YouTube and Instagram both have billions of users and can be a potential huge source of customers for many small businesses. But creating videos for these platforms can be time consuming and expensive. Promo.com’s offerings may be a potential way to get your message out without breaking the bank.

5 – More than 7,000 Robots will work in construction by 2025, according to a new report.

A research firm called Tractica said there will be a $226 million market for construction robots by 2025. What will they be doing? According to the firm they’ll be handling “demolition, bricklaying, drilling, 3D printing, and rebar tying, plus a few exoskeletons and assistant robots for lifting loads.” (Source: Robotics Business Review)

Why this is important for your business:

Hey, if this makes finding a good contractor any easier, then I’m all in.

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(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

A new survey revealed some interesting things about small businesses and this past year’s tax season. Plus some bad news for job seekers and some good news for Donald Trump.

For starters – and despite all the news about smaller refunds and the complexities of the 2017 tax reform legislation – small businesses were actually happy with the way this past year’s tax season turned out. About 51% of the more than 300 small business owners asked in a recent study conducted by the cloud hosting firm Right Networks said their tax season was either “streamlined” or “satisfying” with only 8% saying it was “disappointing”.

The – ahem – accountants (you’re welcome) got much of the credit. Overwhelmingly, in fact.

Of the survey’s respondents 97% said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their CPA’s knowledge of the new tax rules and 68% said that their CPA correctly anticipated the impact of the tax changes on their business and guided them on how to take advantage. I heard from others in my profession that this past busy season was among the toughest ever, but it looks like my colleagues rose to the challenge.

“Small businesses we surveyed gave their CPA a resounding thumbs up when it came to guiding them through the 2018 tax reforms,” Right Networks’ CEO, Joel Hughes, said in a statement. “In a year when strong collaboration was essential, CPAs adeptly navigated the reforms and helped their small business clients reap the benefits.” Right Networks is a client of my technology firm and offers some accounting applications and technologies that my firm resells and implements.

All of that is good news. But the survey also revealed two other things that should concern both Republicans and Democrats as we head into the 2020 election season.

The first has to do with spending. The Right Networks survey found that the top two things that small companies will do with their tax savings – if any – will be to either buy more inventory and capital goods or just pocket the money. Hiring people came in a distant third. Hughes believes that this is because many of us still harbor memories of the Great Recession and are being more conservative with our profits. He also says that many small businesses simply can’t find the people to hire and are instead investing in technologies and capital items to increase the productivity of their existing staff.

He’s right. Small business confidence has remained strong, but recent surveys from the financial services firm Cbiz and payroll services giant ADP have showed either a decline or “erratic” hiring by small businesses in recent months. Even though job openings are at an all-time high, many small companies can’t find workers – particularly skilled workers – to bring on board.

And despite the current administration’s trade and immigration policies that are affecting businesses and hiring around the country, it’s Democrats who may need to be worried about something else: 46% of the respondents viewed Republicans as more favorable to the success of their business, compared with 38% who thought the same of Democrats.

These results don’t surprise me either. Many of my clients, despite their reservations about the president’s behavior and some of his policies, continue to view his administration as very pro-business and when people – especially business people – are making money, they’re not inclined to change things.

The good news for Democrats is that the survey’s margin of error is 5%. So there’s plenty of time for them to make their case.

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