• How to create a great small business workspace

    Pets can be part of a productive workspace. Photo: turnstone

    Think that a better-designed workspace, or even a more wellness-oriented culture, could help your small business be more productive and get to the next level? Kevin Kuske would bet on it.

    He’s Chief Anthropologist and General Manager for the office furniture company turnstone, which caters to entrepreneurs and businesses with fewer than 100 employees. In his studies of great small businesses—the kinds of startups that brilliant people grovel to work for—he’s seen how attention to office design and culture can support success.

    In these workplaces, Kuske says, “there’s freedom and the boundaries between work and home are blurred; you see dogs and skateboards and teapots, which creates a very strong culture of personality that is the sum of all the people who work there.” That's also a great recruiting tool, he says.

    In fast-moving small businesses, Kuske says the team members are working so hard that social bonds are important. An element of play in a workspace can help to establish

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  • Four office design tips from a workplace anthropologist

    Designers might promise that a well-designed office space can improve productivity and enhance worker efficiency and well being, but many small businesses have higher priorities for their limited budget dollars than office furniture and interior design. If you operate in Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Kansas City, or Dallas, here’s your chance to win a $20,000 office makeover.

    Office furniture company turnstone will launch its “Culture@Work in the Heartland” contest later this month. A team of the company’s office design experts will set out from their Grand Rapids, Mich., headquarters on a ten-day roadtrip through nine states on their way to the SXSW festival in Austin. Traveling in a sleek state-of-the-art mobile office and conference room—converted from a Michigan State University football team bus—emblazoned with the slogan “Be Yourself at Work,” the turnstone team will stop in each of five cities to overhaul the office space of a contest winner.

    The turnstone bus will pull up at five Heartland small business spaces later this month.

    To enter to win a $20,000 office

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  • Shaking the Bode Tree: The Future Belongs to the Fortune 5 Million

    It seems as though you can’t turn on the television or pick up a magazine without coming across a politician or pundit extolling the virtues of small business and the role it plays in the U.S. economy. It’s easy to see why small business is such a popular topic of conversation. As of today there are about 27 million small businesses in the U.S., 6 million of which actually have employees. These businesses account for over 50% of total U.S. GDP and 75% of the net new jobs in the U.S.

    Golden Egg

    It’s clearly a big deal, but I for one, think that this renewed focus on small business is only the beginning. There is strong evidence to suggest that we’re witnessing the beginning of a major social and economic shift. As a result, I’ve become convinced that while the 20th century was dominated by the Fortune 500, the 21st century belongs to the Fortune 5 Million.

    There are three key drivers of this shift.

    1. Structural changes in the economy
    2. Increasing interest in niche products
    3. Ever lowering

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  • New energy, new startups, new lessons. Small Business Reading for February 1, 2013

    With the start of a new year many business owners get a boost of renewal and new energy. The trick is to sustain that energy for as long as possible. Some of our articles this week should help you do that. Our Startup Diaries series is written by real small business owners working away on starting and sustaining their new businesses. J. P.Sawyer talks about the lessons he learned in getting going. Chris Myers of Bode Tree also wrote about his three startup lessons. We looked at why you should get an insurance re-evaluation at the start of every year and how to boostrap your dream business in ten steps. And if you haven't taken the entreprenurial leap yet, here is how to handle job burnout.

    newenergy

    If you haven't taken the plunge yet, hopefully some of these articles give you the impetus to start your own business — and if you do, we have tools to help. Besides our domain name, web hosting and ecommerce products, we also have just added an innovative marketing dashboard that you can try for

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  • Shaking the Bode Tree: Our Top 3 Startup Lessons

    Money Tree VII, https://www.flickr.com/photos/kodomut/

    I have a confession to make. I’m a business book addict. It's an unhealthy relationship that drains my bank account and generally leaves me with few, if any, useful insights. Yet for some reason I can't seem to pass through the coffee-stained aisle of my local book mega-store without picking up a few of the new releases. I've even taken to strategically removing them from my bookshelf, so house guests don’t’ mistake me for a cliché-spouting, new-age, faux business 2.0 guru.

    The funny thing is that, despite having read virtually every hot business book out there, the most important lessons I've picked up while nurturing my business from scrappy startup to even scrappier, slightly more mature, startup, were learned the old fashioned way: by living and learning.

    So, with that being said, I submit to you the top 3 startup lessons that I learned the hard way.

    1. Focus on the Pain Points

    Don't roll your eyes…This lesson isn't as obvious as it seems. Every single founder thinks that his or

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  • New portal solicits comments on small biz regs

    Telling legislators how their regulations affect your small business is now as easy as clicking here. The House Committee on Small Business yesterday unveiled Small Biz Reg Watch, a website that alerts users to proposed regulatory actions with consequences for small business. The site lists the regs, describes their impact on small businesses, and provides an easy-to-use comment section to gather input from the small business community within the comment period.

    Six regulations are presently described on the site—two from the IRS, two from the EPA, one from the Small Business Administration, and one from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Administration. More than 250 individual comments have been posted by small business stakeholders.

    To be sure, an online portal for submitting public comments on proposed regulations already exists at Regulations.gov. Small Biz Reg Watch is linked to that portal, but highlights particular rules likely to impact

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  • Seeking your small business’s pricetag? Try an app

    A new breed of software tools aims to give access to big-business financial analysis to small business owners. For far less than it costs to hire an accountant, a math-averse entrepreneur can subscribe to one of a number of user-friendly online services that can extrapolate strategic data from your inputs, or even directly from QuickBooks.

    One vendor has trademarked the term “valuation as a service” to describe the software it provides. The data these tools help generate are useful to any business owner hoping to sell the company, get a bank loan, or share financials in a contract bid. Some users even claim the information they’ve gleaned has helped them increase their value.

    Writing in Colliers’ Magazine last year, Scott Gabehart, author of The Business Valuation Book and professor of valuations at the Thunderbird School, and Michael Carter predicted:

    The rise of the Internet, together with the public availability of real-time comparable metrics, social media technologies, and

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  • As a small business owner, being under- or uninsured can cost you your company and land you in jail. Greg Bivona, a retired insurance industry executive who now helps entrepreneurs as a SCORE mentor, recalls a 2005 case in which a Bloomfield, Conn., trucking company owner met both those fates when one of his uninsured dump trucks caused a catastrophic accident that resulted in 5 fatalities.

    That owner was found to be willfully negligent, but business owners are frequently unaware that they are insufficiently insured. “A lot of people don’t understand the pitfalls and risks [of being under-insured],” Bivona says. “Often they minimize what they should have, they go cheap. I understand why; I was in the business. They’re between a rock and a hard place. But you don’t want to go too cheap and have exposure.”

    The start of a new year is a good time to conduct an annual re-evaluation of your business insurance coverage. If your staff, office space, or business has reduced in recent years, you

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  • Small businesses start year with sunny outlook: survey

    Small business owners are starting 2013 with a sunnier outlook than they ended 2012 with, according results of an online survey released on Friday.

    The quarterly Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business survey in early January found a significant jump in optimism among 601 small business owners since surveying a random sample of the group online in November. “Small-business owners as a group have returned to being essentially neutral about their current operating environment from being more pessimistic last November,” Gallup reported.

    Yet optimism is down overall among the group from a year ago, and business owners point to many reasons to remain worried about their business prospects. Gallup reports that:

    “More than half of U.S. small-business owners say healthcare costs and taxes on small businesses are hurting their operating environment ‘a lot,’ making these the top two concerns among eight issues tested ... They are followed by the price of energy, government regulations, and the federal

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  • SBA site strives to streamline low-cost tech contracts

    The Small Business Administration has launched an online marketplace designed to simplify the way small tech businesses find and bid on small contracts with federal agencies. Innovative technology companies are invited to use RFP-EZ to create a company profile and bid on low-cost, high-impact jobs.

    According to SBA: “By simply creating a company profile on the beta site, each small business can search and bid for contracts relevant to its skill set. A small business can easily search for an opportunity, see a statement of work, and bid all within the RFP-EZ web interface.”

    At present, the site features four available contracts, all commissioned by the Small Business Administration with deadlines of February 4. The jobs are in database enhancement, database integration, web-based communications, and automated email communications.

    If the pilot phase of RFP-EZ proves successful, SBA says the program will be expanded to include more contracts for a more diverse group of innovative

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