• Optimistic business owners will work on vacation

    Hard working and eternally optimistic. Those are the traits that seem to characterize the majority of small business owners we write about here, and they're verified by those who responded to a survey conducted in May by Rocket Lawyer. The online legal services provider polled more than 1,000 of its small business customers nationwide in its 2013 Semiannual Small Business Survey.

    More than half of respondents across all age groups say their businesses have been growing or even "booming" in the first half of 2013. More than one-third say business is still flat and not much has changed since a year ago, but an overwhelming number of respondents—73%—say they expect the second half of this year to be better. Rocket Lawyer's June 2013 survey results show markedly increased optimism since a year ago, when the survey showed that 56% had such sunny outlooks, but a slight drop in optimism since January 2013, when 81% predicted the next 6 months would bring better business.

    Rocket Lawyer infographic

    How do small

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  • customersYou’re not selling a product. Or a service. You’re selling a means to an end. Does that sound harsh? Deflating, perhaps? Let me explain.

    The German philosopher Heidegger famously distinguished between objects that are “ready at hand” and objects with properties. In other words, when we use a product (an object), we’re not usually focused on the product itself -- its fancy label, its color, and so on -- but on what it does for us. Heidegger used the hammer as an example: We don’t look at a hammer as, well, a hammer, but as something that can drive in a nail to help us do something like build a house. Only later, maybe, will we ponder the hammer as a hammer.

    How does this apply to a business? Quite simply, customers don’t care as much about that your product is as what it does -- and what it does for them in particular. Sure, they care about the product and will think about it as a product, but first they need to see how the product can add value to their lives. Only then will they “look

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  • Announcing the new Young Entrepreneur Blog

    launchIn partnership with the Young Entrepreneur Council we are launching a new blog here on Yahoo! Small Business Advisor aimed at young entrepreneurs from teens to twenties - and the older entrepreneur who is young-at-heart will also find a home here.

    We will feature advice, case studies, news, announcements, features and practical how-to information for those already running a startup, in the process of setting one up and those who are just thinking about taking the leap.

    We are kicking things off with a live twitter chat with Scott Gerber, Founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council and Phyllis Weber, Director for Local Retail at the Bay Area News Group and Owen Linderholm, Editor of Yahoo! Small Business Advisor on how to drive business in a world where shopping starts online. The chat will happen on Thursday June 20th at Noon PST (3PM EST) and you can join in by following @ysmallbusiness and the hashtag #GoSMB

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  • When things go wrong. Leadership lessons from Lieutenant General David Morrison

    Things go wrong in business all the time. Mostly they are small problems and can be dealt with just by accepting them and dealing with them. But big problems, crises, are a different matter. Suddenly the future of the business is in question - and that makes dealing with the problem that much harder. But confronting problems is at heart the same no matter how big or small and no matter the venue.

    One of the best demonstrations of how to confront problems the right way came just yesterday from the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, to the Australian Army. Before you do anything else, watch the video embedded below and think about the ramifications for the Australian Army, Australian society and how Morrison is facing this problem. Other military leaders can learn from his example. And so can business leaders - both on this topic but also around any serious problem.

    The story essentially is that it has come to light that a group of Australian Army officers and

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  • Angie's List founder Angie Hicks is among Small Business Week speakers whose talks will be livestreamed.

    During the 50th annual National Small Business Week, the US Small Business Administration will offer tips, tools, and training on a variety of topics for small business owners. Register to attend live, or stay home and watch it all on your computer screen June 17-21.

    At live events five days next week in Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and finally Washington, registered participants can attend workshops on topics including how to start a business, exporting, going global, blogging, cyber security, finding capital, supplier diversity, social media, crowdsourcing, small business certifications, and the Affordable Care Act.

    But you don’t need to register or even leave your shop, office, or home to glean all the same information online. All events will be live-streamed at the SBA Small Business Week website.

    SBA will also host daily online Google+ Hangout panel discussions with leading small business vendors and supporters Monday-Thursday starting at 4:00 pm EDT. Participants in

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  • Join a live Twitter chat: The Online Generation: Turning Browsers into Buyers

    ysmallbusiness twitter chat

    Next week is National Small Business Week. We’ve got a few surprises planned – so check back here on Monday!

    One event we have planned is not a surprise – please join Yahoo! Small Business as we celebrate National Small Business Week with an hour long Twitter chat -- The Online Generation: Turning Browsers into Buyers -- focused on providing small business owners with tips and insights on how to drive real sales in a world that increasingly starts online.

    We will discuss how the online generation is driving new customer expectations, experiences, and choices and how that affects all small businesses as they look for increased sales and new customers while competing in a tough market. We’ll take a look at mobile, social media, how savvy online shoppers have changed how they choose businesses and everything else to do with the new online commerce experience.

    We are VERY happy to have Scott Gerber, serial entrepreneur, author and founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council and Phyllis

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  • Teen Entrepreneurs Take on Avon

    Brea (l) and Halle Holmes founders and CEOs of Sweet Dream Girlz

    Halle Holmes was 10 years old in 2010 when she came home empty-handed and aggravated after a trip to the local mall. As hostess of an upcoming spa party, she had her heart set on finding all-natural beauty products in fun fragrances that her girlfriends would like and her sensitive skin could tolerate.

    “We didn’t want to smell like lavender and sweet pea. We wanted something youthful smelling,” she says. Downright indignant that no such product existed, Halle says she turned to her teenage sister Brea and said, “Why don’t we start our own?”

    As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. The Holmes sisters began researching their idea online, tapped their family dermatologist for advice, and sent their mom out to investigate a few cosmetics manufacturers they identified.

    With $6,000 in startup funding from their parents, Halle and Brea officially launched their beauty products business the same year. Named Sweet Dream Girlz for a favorite Beyonce song, the Holmes’ line of

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  • Viral Video

    Social marketing is all about sharing content that your audience shares in turn, expanding your reach and getting your message out to more and more people. But guessing — and second guessing — what the next viral trend will be doesn’t get you any closer to social success.

    So just how do successful brands go about creating and sharing content that goes viral? We spoke with both content marketers and content creators to get their perspectives on the process. Here’s what they advised when it comes to creating and marketing that all-elusive viral content.

    Making Videos that Resonate with Viewers

    “The phrase ‘go viral’ is slightly misleading,” says David Waterhouse, Head of Content for Unruly Media, a firm that tracks online video successes and maintains the Viral Video Chart. “Viral suggests something that is random, untargeted and out of control. They are the exception, not the rule, and that’s why it’s a terrible tactic for brands to focus on. The good news for marketers is that unlike

    Read More »from Behind the Scenes on Successful Viral Video Advertising Campaigns
  • PayPal and the Death of the Cash Register

    Paypal has a pretty exciting program this Summer for small businesses – yes, that Paypal. Basically they are hoping to really jump on the post-cash-register movement that has slowly been gaining ground. And by jump on we mean with both feet. Hard. If you run a small business and use an old-school cash register they want to convince you to move to their modern payment and inventory system. And to convince you they’ve started a Cash for Registers program that has some great benefits if you are one of the first 10,000 to try it. Starting on July 9, 2013, PayPal will waive transaction fees for up to $20,000 worth of transactions each month through the end of January 2014 if you upgrade to either PayPal Here or a pre-integrated partner solution and spend more than $450 on eligible hardware. You’ll save on transaction feed for swiped credit card, debit card and PayPal payments (both PayPal app mobile payments and PayPal payment card payments) made through the solution you choose (but note

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  • Datamining isn’t just for Big Brother and big businesses

    Housekeepers, exterminators, landscapers, and other small enterprises that make house calls might not seem like candidates for sophisticated data gathering and analysis efforts. But Jeff Annis says he’s “leveraging the microchip” to run his pest control company, Advanced Services in Augusta, Ga., more efficiently than ever. Mining their own data is enabling Annis and other small business owners to serve more customers and generate more revenue with fewer staff.

    By employing software to analyze and re-direct the routes that his technicians drive, for instance, Annis says he saved about 1,000 gallons of gas in one quarter. It added up to far more than a $4-per-gallon savings: “Our average vehicle is getting 20 miles per gallon. That’s 20,000 miles we didn’t drive at 40 miles per hour. And that’s around 500 hours of labor driving around from house to house that we saved,” Annis says. “If you think about all the ramifications of that, it’s time, rubber, risk to the driver, and wear and

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