In 2011, small business lending was at an all time low, with banks approving less than nine percent of loans for small businesses. What a difference four years makes. Lending from large banks to small businesses more than doubled between June 2011 and June 2015 to reach an all-time high, according to the latest figures from the  Biz2Credit Lending Index June 2015 . In June 2011 , 8.9 percent of small business owners saw their loans approved. Compare that to last month, in which banks approved 22.1 percent of loans requested by small businesses. It marked the eighth straight month that approvals by large banks have increased. In the release announcing the milestone, Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora, who oversees the research explains: “Big banks are increasingly adopting digitization. This makes them more efficient and is of benefit to borrowers, as well. These are the best numbers for big bank lending since the recession. Small business lending is profitable; that’s why we see institutional lenders getting into marketplace lending. It is a good time for entrepreneurs in search of capital.” By contrast, approval rates from small banks continued to struggle, dropping to 49.3 percent, their lowest rate in the past year. In the release, Arora adds: “Small banks need to start adapting to technology quickly. Otherwise they will continue losing market share to big banks and institutional lenders. Their competitors make quicker decisions and get deals done. Meanwhile, they are not keeping pace. We have seen small banks falling behind in both the personal loans space and small business lending space during the past two and half years.” Approval rates from credit unions and alternative lenders, meanwhile, saw little change between May and June. Alternative lender rates hovered at 61 percent for both months, while credit union approvals dipped from 43.1 percent to 43 percent during the same period. Arora adds: “Alternative lenders offer what I call ‘desperate money’ and right now, borrowers aren’t desperate. The financials of small business owners are pretty good and have been that way for the past couple of years. Credit unions continue to lag in small business lending because of they have not invested in technology and are still handcuffed by the MBL cap that allows them to lend only 12.25 percent of their total assets.” To get its figures, Biz2Credit analyzed loan requests from $25,000 to $3 million submitted by businesses that had been operating two years or more, with years with an average credit score of 680 or higher.  Results come from primary data submitted by more than 1,000 business owners who applied for funding using Biz2Credit’s online lending platform, which connects business borrowers and lenders. Image: Biz2Credit This article, ” Biz2Credit Report Shows How Small Biz Lending has Rebounded ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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When business owners get a great idea, they can easily jump into too many tasks at once. Geoffrey Gray is one of those business owners. His great idea was for a footwear testing service, which he named Heeluxe . And although he fell into that common trap of trying to do too much, he was able to overcome it and build a successful business. Read more about his journey and Heeluxe’s services in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does Providing objective research to footwear brands. Gray, Owner of Heeluxe and Brother Small Business Advisory Panelist says: “Our innovative, on-body testing replicates how the shoes are used in the ‘real world’. The results from this testing provide the shoe developer with the strengths and weaknesses of their product versus the competition.” Business Niche Providing results quickly. Heeluxe provides objective testing results in two weeks or less, which can help footwear brands stay on their development timelines. Gray explains: “Most footwear research takes place in academic institutions, where studies take 12-24 months to complete. We recognized that footwear brands needed results quickly during the development of new shoes, so we developed systems to make the testing meet their time needs.” How the Business Got Started Because of a desire to help more people. Gray says: “I was working as a Physical Therapist that specialized in foot and ankle rehab and taking care of professional athletes. I loved my job but realized I could only help 20 people a day. By helping brands make more comfortable and better performance shoes, I am able to help tens of thousands of people have healthier feet every day.” Lesson Learned Don’t take on too many tasks. Gray explains: “I used to have a bad habit of taking on too many tasks, and not spending enough time on nurturing new business. Apparently I’m not the only one who made that mistake – according to Brother’s Small Business Survey released in 2015, taking on too many roles and responsibility is a habit that a whopping 35% of business owners admit to doing. When I was finally able to kick that bad habit, business boomed and Heeluxe achieved our biggest “win” of signing six new contracts in just over one month.” Biggest Risk Moving into an official office space. In the business’s early days, Gray subleased space for Heeluxe within a friend’s gym. The team did most of its work during the gym’s off hours in order to keep costs low. But as both Heeluxe and the gym grew, the need for an official office space did as well. So Gray took the risk even though it cost more than he would like to have spent. He says: “The office was a powerful sign to one of our larger clients and they saw how much better we could serve them in the new space. I was able to sign a new, larger contract with them 2 months later and we’ve been in this space ever since. The office has allowed us to be more innovative with our testing and the companies we work with love to come visit. For me, driving up to a building with my business’s name on it is a huge motivator every morning as well.” How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000 Building new technologies. Gray says: “Heeluxe is always trying to build new or better systems to serve our customer’s needs and a cash infusion would help build our new technologies. Right now we are building a “shoe robot” that can simulate 3 months of shoe wear in 3 days and 1 year of wear in a week.” If the Business Were an Album Radiohead’s OK Computer album. Gray explains: “Ahead of its time while still easy to approach.” Favorite Quote “The man who is busy copying the work of others has no time to be original for himself” – Salvatore Ferragamo, Gray’s admitted “shoe hero”. * * * * * Find out more about the   Small Biz Spotlight   program. Images: Heeluxe This article, ” Spotlight: Heeluxe Steps Up in Footwear Licensing ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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WiFi — that’s something no business can do without these days — especially the small ones. But if you are already using WiFi for your small business, you might have experienced a few disappointing things as well. At times, WiFi speed tends to become pretty low and affects productivity in a negative way. Being a small business, you can’t afford to allow that. So, it’s important that you get over the hitches to make your small business WiFi run faster. There are quite a few ways that you can embrace to boost the speed of your small business WiFi. Here’s a quick look at just a few of them. Location – That’s Important Where are you placing your router in the office? This is an important question to ask when you are planning to boost your small business WiFi speed. Not all positions in a room or a building can give equal WiFi speed to the users present there. This video by Jason Cole, a physics grad student, shows clearly how the position of a router influences the speed of WiFi across a room. So, if you want to have a uniform speed of WiFi everywhere, you have to place the router in a central position. Keeping it in a corner of the room will give a high-speed experience to only those sitting at that corner, but the other parts will remain out of its ambit. It is always important to avoid placing the router on the ground. The higher you place it, the better result it is expected to offer. You might even need to move the router around until you get find the sweet spot that gives the best results. Avoid Interference Interference is one of the major issues facing WiFi connections in a small office. You might find that you have done everything correctly to help the connection run smoothly and fast. Yet, it becomes slow. And you cannot understand why it is happening. Is interference a major reason? While placing the WiFi router, keep an eye on possible interference issues. There are quite a few objects that might cause this problem. So, it’s always essential to keep the router away from those. Some of the most common objects causing interference with the WiFi signals include: Other WiFi networks Bluetooth devices Wall Domestic electronic appliances Water-filled containers or aquariums Metal objects So, keep the WiFi router away from all of these to get the best results. If another WiFi network is causing the problem, it is better to find another channel that’s not busy. Do a Ping Test Are you facing a problem accessing websites on your network? Is the site not opening immediately after you have typed in the address? You can run a ping test to confirm whether a delay is occurring when the site is being opened on your computer and using your internet connection. It can also come in handy if you need to know whether the quality of the WiFi connection that you have is good enough or not. If the ping shows that the WiFi connection is not performing well enough, you might find it necessary to undertake a few steps to improve that. Extend the Signal and Make It Stronger Is the WiFi signal not performing well enough on different corners? There are simple ways to boost it. You can go for a wireless repeater to boost the WiFi signals that are being emitted from the router. But you will need to place the repeater in the right position to increase the intensity of the WiFi signal. You might also go for antennas for the WiFi router. Usually, these routers come with at least one antenna. If you want to experience strong WiFi signal, adding another one might help. You can also go for a router that has two antennas. However, a high-gain antenna is likely to be the most effective if you are looking to make the most of the WiFi connection. Keep the WiFi Signal Secure When you are using small business WiFi, it is essential that the connection runs fast. But this might be difficult to achieve. More so, if your WiFi connection is hacked. It might happen if you keep the WiFi connection open. So, what’s the best way to solve this problem? You can turn the encryption of the router on. If you are doing that, make sure you are using the right WiFi-protected access. Go for WPA or WPA2 encryption and not WEP. That’s because WEP is easier to hack and hence, should be avoided. The speed of WiFi in your small business has a direct relationship with the amount of profit that you garner. That’s because a slow WiFi connection reduces the productivity of your employees. Hence, it’s essential for you to implement these small business WiFi tips to keep WiFi speed running high enough for an excellent user experience. Work WiFi Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” 5 Killer Tips to Keep Your Small Business WiFi Up and Running ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Microsoft introduced Windows 10 today. The day has been long awaited by any Windows 8 users hoping the new operating system will resolve some of the problems of its predecessor. If you’ve been waiting for the latest version of Windows for your small business, here’s an overview of the new system and what it offers. First, this is a complete update for Windows, available in seven different versions. It covers everyone from individual users to small businesses and large enterprises in 190 countries and 111 languages. Microsoft skipped Windows 9 altogether to avoid any association with Windows 8, as well as it being viewed as an incremental step from 8.1. If you’re running genuine Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) or Windows 8.1 (Update) you qualify for the free upgrade. For everyone else, the Home edition will cost $119 and Pro will set you back $199. Windows users will likely see a Windows logo near the clock on the right side of their task bar. It’s probably been there for a while. Clicking that will direct users to a place where they can reserve a copy of Windows 10. After July 29, those that clicked to reserve Windows 10 will get a notification when it is ready to be installed. Return of ‘Start’ Menu and More Although not necessarily new, the ‘Start’ menu is back, to the delight of many. Additional features include: Edge Browser – The browser has been designed from scratch to make the online experience more user friendly. It lets you share webpages, make notes and save with colleagues, friends, or family. And, yes, this means it’s the end of the road for Internet Explorer (at least on devices running the new operating system). Cortana – A voice-activated assistant that integrates with Edge and other Windows 10 functions to simplify online search, send email and remember appointments. Small businesses can put Edge and Cortana together for video conferencing, multi-tasking, access apps and collaborate. Continuum – A solution that automatically adapts the Windows interface to fit the device being whether it is a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Universal Windows Apps – It will work across all devices, giving business persons access no matter how many different smartphones and tablets they have. Windows 10 will come with built-in universal apps for messaging, mail, calendar, people, photos, videos, maps, and music. Media – Windows Media Center has been replaced with Groove and Movies & TV as a modified version of Xbox Music. Security – New security features include biometric support for facial recognition and fingerprints. A new Passport to login to Websites, networks, and apps without passwords. Usability is the one word that pops up when you start playing around with Windows 10. Whether it is the Home, Pro or Enterprise edition, individuals and businesses of all sizes should be more efficient with this operating system. Image: Microsoft This article, ” Finally, Microsoft Releases Windows 10 ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Michael Sliwinski, the CEO and Founder of Nozbe, was a recent guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on wearable technology. This post highlights this conversation. Continue reading →

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This week SAP launched a new e-publication, Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly. We sat down with Jeff Woods, Editorial Director for the magazine and VP, Corporate and Portfolio Marketing at SAP to get the back story. Continue reading →

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Sponsored Post It’s rare to meet someone today who is not on social media in some way. Many people think of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as channels to communicate with friends and family. But social media has expanded to provide networking opportunities for all types of businesses. Below are tips on how to use social media for business and how  social media marketing can help support your business goals and raise awareness about your brand and products or services. 1. Start with Social, but Plan Bigger Whether you have a website or not, there are several benefits when you use social media for business to help establish an online presence including: Simplicity and speed: easy-to-use interfaces mean your presence can be up and running in minutes. Cost-effectiveness: a social media page can be developed for little or no cost. Built-in base of members: social networks are a place to reach and engage existing and potential customers. If your business already has a website, you can use your social media channels as marketing tools to amplify your company brand, message and content in order to drive visitors back to your main website. But if a website isn’t in your strategy or budget (despite the fact that you can actually create a great website today for free ), your business can still benefit from registering a unique, descriptive domain name. Two primary ways to use a domain (or multiple domains) in support of a social media presence are: 1. As a branded Web address that points to your social presence. 2. As a branded email address to reinforce your social presence while giving your business added credibility. 2. Use Content to Attract Customers The best way to get your customers’ attention and drive user interaction is to deliver frequent, high-quality and compelling content on your website and social presence, or with a blog post that targets your audience. Here are a few tips: Have a plan: know what you want your content to do for your business. Are you looking for leads or brand awareness? Your plan will help you see the path ahead, and more importantly, allow you to measure success or failure. Define your audience: know who they are, what they know, and — more importantly — what they don’t. This can help you form your content. Play to your passions: your content is bound to be more compelling and attractive if you have a deep and clear interest in the subject matter. 3. Try Paid Advertising to Get in Front of New Customers Paid advertising relies upon a variety of targeting mechanisms including keywords to put your ads into the paid advertising or “promoted ad” section on social networks where your customers and prospects spend time. Display ads may also appear on the sides of the users’ pages and as they are integrated seamlessly into the user’s experience, they don’t generally feel like typical obtrusive ads. Paid advertising can be an effective strategy and many social platforms have budget-friendly options. Placing ads on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, can work with any budget, and ad campaigns can easily be set up with just a credit card. You can also target your audience using age, gender, location and interests, among other demographics. Consider including images in your ad. Ads with images are more attention getting, leading to more clicks, shares, likes, and re-tweets. YouTube offers a variety of advertising options, in some cases charging fees only if users actually watch your videos. Social Media Photo via Shutterstock This article, ” How To Use Social Media for Business ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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If we’re going to win the future, we have to invest in it. Or, put another way, why isn’t what’s good for Microsoft good for the country? Continue reading →

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Hiscox, the small business insurer, recently released a new digital docu-series , Courageous Leaders, in partnership with Vox Media. The series features video interviews with successful entrepreneurs who provide insight into how they found the courage to succeed in business. The series features entrepreneurs like Foursquare’s Co-founder/CEO Dennis Crowley, Thrillist Co-founder/CEO Ben Lerer and Interior Designer/TV personality Ross Cassidy. A common denominator of many of these entrepreneurs was that they started their small business, quite literally, from nothing but a dream. Hunter Hoffmann, head of communications for Hiscox, recently spoke with Small Business Trends to outline tips on how to start a small business with limited resources. Don’t Quit Your Day Job … Yet One way to start a small business and get it off the ground while minimizing financial risks is to keep your day job until your business is large and steady enough. While there’s certainly a romance to the story of the daring entrepreneur who goes it alone, there’s also much to be said for continuing to receive a paycheck, especially if you are married and have children. This means you will be burning the candle at both ends, but it can be done with good time management. For example, if you work at the office from 9 to 5, you will need to block out time each day. Maybe 8-10 p.m. every night is the best time for you. Or, if you are a morning person, getting up at dawn and working for a few years is the way to go. It is all about managing time and keeping your stress level low. Spend Less Find ways to cut costs wherever you can. Many small business founders mix their fledgling business effort into their daily life, so they often seek to cut corners in terms of both household and business expenses. But a lot of entrepreneurs save a lot of money using new online DIY solutions, such as Wix.com, as well as by using sites such as Crowdsource and Elance to find supplementary talent you can virtually hire at competitive rates. One way to help you determine where you should find outsourced support is by following this maxim: Focus on doing what you know how to do and let others handle the other stuff. Also, don’t forget to attend the right networking events, ones somehow related to your business. You should attend as many of these events as you possibly can. You will meet people who may turn out to be instrumental to your success, all while enjoying the free food and drink offered at these occasions. Find Angels Praying and a belief in a higher power certainly won’t hurt your efforts to debut your business. However, here we refer not to winged seraphs, but rather investors looking for projects to fund. Utilize your connections to help get funding from angel investors, affluent individuals who seek to provide capital specifically for business start-ups. Many times you will find investors who were once in your shoes and can also offer advice in addition to funding. As with so much else in life, to realize success here is like playing a numbers game: The more people you talk to the better your chances of finding someone who can help or introduce you to someone who can help. In preparing for meetings with these potential investors, it’s important to know your business inside and out. One good method of doing this is to have a friend poke holes in your business plan. This will help you to better weather the storm, meaning you’ll be able to better handle difficult questions under pressure, an ability true leaders need to have. Look to the Masses Crowdfunding has grown increasingly popular. It’s also a great solution for entrepreneurs who need to fund their dream. The rule of thumb here tends to be: the quirkier ideas perform the best. (Remember, one successful Kickstarter project had to do with the perfect egg salad sandwich recipe.) If your business involves a novel product or an online service, you should definitely look into this. The main caveat to keep in mind regarding crowdfunding when you start a small business is: always remember, there’s the potential for you to commit faux pas that make you obligated to return the money. Go to the Bank When You Don’t Need To Going to the bank when you are penniless puts you in a vulnerable position; it’s better to get the paperwork done early so you can commence building important relationships well in advance of when you’ll need to leverage them. Also, don’t climb out on a financial limb until you have to. Monthly payments will always be due and they won’t change based on how much revenue your business earns, or fails to earn, for that month. Make Your Business Your Baby You’re the one who is ultimately responsible for making sure everything about your business is taken care of. No one else can do it. Just as new parents quickly realize that their newborn baby is in charge of the household, so too should new business owners realize the same about their business. You wouldn’t trust someone else to care and feed your baby — consider your business in the same light. If there’s a problem, don’t complain because no one else cares. Just focus on figuring out how to fix the problem. Schedule Some Off Time to Avoid Burning Out When you start a small business, it usually proves to be an all-encompassing endeavor. You won’t punch out at 5 p.m. as do those holding corporate positions. Instead, you will find yourself working all hours in the day and night. You certainly won’t have a wealth of spare time anymore. That is why it is so important that you schedule some off time — to avoid burning yourself out. Whether it’s an afternoon at the beach or a whole weekend away, you need to have breaks in your work cycle. Time away will let you recharge and often gives you a renewed perspective on the big picture that you won’t get while stuck in the weeds and grinding away. Dot Your Is and Cross Your Ts Watching your concept come to life is one of the most exciting things about starting a new business. But you need to take care of some basics, too. For example, make sure you’re withholding the correct taxes for your business and your employees, and always sign on for the necessary insurance. Small businesses should look into both professional liability and general liability insurance and, if you have employees, workers comp is required everywhere but Texas. Make Your Startup Official When you start a small business, you must make sure you protect yourself by making your business a registered legal entity. Creating a separation between yourself and your business helps limit your liability in case anything goes wrong. You may want to seek out your accountant’s or lawyer’s advice regarding what type of entity would be best for your situation. Follow the Money Every business starts out with what is considered to be a great concept, either of a product or a service that, the small business owner believes, people will die to purchase. But the market quickly tells you what works and what doesn’t, and you need to be able to pivot quickly to follow the money, not wait at a place where you think it is going to show up. Remember, many of the world’s biggest companies evolved in quite radical ways — with some no longer even slightly resembling what they originally debuted as. Twitter, for example, started out as a podcasting service. The lesson here is: Focus on what works and don’t be too proud to shelve ideas that fall flat. Image: Vox Creative This article, ” 10 Tips to Start a Small Business from Nothing ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Around 33 million people in the US work remotely at least half of the time they work. In fact, the number of remote and stay-at-home workers increased by 79.7 percent from 2005 to 2012. So exactly who is working remotely and why are companies embracing remote work? To answer these questions, Column Five created an infographic called “ The Profile of the Remote Worker ” for video and Web conferencing company Highfive . According to the data, remote stay-at-home workers are on average 49-years-old, college educated, and employed at a company with more than 100 employees, earning an annual salary of $58,000. Most remote stay-at-home workers are in the service industry, followed by the management and financial industry and then office and administrative support. Oregon, Montana, Colorado and Vermont are the states with the most remote workers. Why are today’s companies increasingly embracing the remote worker? It’s because of the benefits to both employer and employee. According to the data, remote workers reported greater productivity and, despite working off-site, they actually felt more connected to their coworkers. Remote workers say they are able to strike a better work-life balance and, in general, are more satisfied in life. With all the added benefits of working remotely, it’s a win-win for employees and companies to expand work beyond the confines of an office. Republished by permission. Original here . Image: Highfive This article, ” Who’s the Average Stay-at-Home Worker Today? ” was first published on Small Business Trends

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