Along with the introduction of the plural generation, mobile payments and pre-election year politics, 2015 also promises more development of the “internet of things”, a concept that small business owners may or may not be already familiar with. According to a Wired.com article on the IoT, the name refers to the increasing spread of networks as well as the proliferation of “smart” devices capable of using the internet to receive and collect information, bridging the gap between the internet and the physical world. How does the internet of things relate to small business? There are many ways that businesses both large and small could be changed by the increasing connection between the web, interenet enabled devices and people in the next few years. Here are a couple that business owners should take into account. Mobile payment technologies. The news that Apple will be moving into the mobile payment space brought the possibility of widely adopted seamless payments back into focus, as the challenge of balancing retailer concerns

The use of social media is now the number one internet based activity in the US, with the average American spending around 37 minutes a day on their various accounts. For small businesses, not having any social presence long ago stopped being ok, along with not having a web site it is now one of the basics of getting yourself out there and being visible to your customers. Now, in light of the increasing prevalence of mobile devices and social media, often used in conjunction, business owners should look to the future and prepare themselves to win in a world increasingly driven by social and mobile marketing. Building a presence that is valuable takes time and some strategy, but business owners can’t afford to skip out on channels that are becoming more an more an intrinsic part of how people decide what to buy. Social marketing. With the price of entry set at free for most social networks, business owners will find that they have no

The internet is a tool that has limitless possibilities, which in turn makes it especially easy to abuse in an office setting without a well understood internet policy. That said, when a business owner is overly restrictive with their internet policies, it can hurt morale which in turn has the ability to hurt productivity. Often, the reason that employees use the internet in a non-work context is not because they wish to shirk their responsibilities, but because they might be unclear on the priorities that they should be working on. Establishing clear goals and protocols for clarifying tasks during the workday can help to keep employees moving consistently in the right direction. What does your team need to do their jobs, and what represents a distraction that has the potential to impede their productivity? Generally, listening to music and sending a couple of persona emails in the course of a day falls within the realm of appropriate internet usage. It’s only when distractions such as watching

You may remember reading about the FCC’s proposed Net Neutrality rules, which would allow for a tiered approach to internet bandwidth. In essence, it would create reserved high speed channels for the websites of entities that would be willing to pay for them, relegating those who do not to “slow lanes” which could create excessive loading times, seriously hampering the ability of those pages to rank in search results. Small businesses are among those who would be particularly hard hit, as they could lose significant shares of leads and digital commerce they gain through managing strong web presences. In protest to these proposed changes, on the 10th, many major websites participated in a “Go Slow” day displaying messages warning visitors of the reality of what the internet could become, and the danger present in allowing the creation of a segmented and corporation dominated internet. In an article that appeared on dailyfinance.com, the problems that could be created for small businesses by hampered internet speed include

The internet has had a pervasive and transformative effect on all parts of society. In particular, small businesses have had their ability to reach new markets and do business over a larger area increase dramatically, but also internally the internet has opened up the means for communication between teams and management of remote employees like never before. However, the dependence on the internet means that modern businesses now have to consider internet safety and access as parts of their essential operations, instead of as extra amenities. While a business may have an internet connection, if it is too slow it can create functional bottlenecks. When an internet connection is slow, it can create problems with streaming video and downloading documents, making it difficult to take advantage of collaborative technology such as clod based document sharing and programs like Skype or Gotomeeting that can allow two employees to meet remotely or even share views of their screens in order to work on projects side by side. CRM

  As the credit market for small business lending continues to feel the aftereffects of the great recession, small businesses are still struggling to obtain loans from the traditional banking establishment. In a recent article that appeared on INC.com, former SBA Chief Karen Mill’s Harvard Business School paper was cited revealing just how tough the recession was for smaller businesses, as well as the resulting “credit crunch” on the part of banks whose after-effects are still being felt today. The paper revealed the thought processes behind banks deciding to move away from smaller loans, since within traditional banking the costs of underwriting a hundred thousand dollar loan are comparable to the costs of underwriting a million dollar loan, but with a lower profit margin for the bank. Alternative capital allows these markets to be served quickly and effectively. One of the reasons why alternative capital represents the potential for introducing major change to the way banking works is that within the industry, a different approach to

The FCC has been making headlines as they attempt to parse out the debate surrounding “net neutrality”. What this is is essentially the concept that all information on the internet should be given the same level of priority, that no legal content should be blocked and that no internet service providers should act in a “commercially unreasonable manner” by favoring traffic from affiliates. However, a storm of controversy has arisen surrounding the possibility that internet service providers could still create tiered levels of bandwidth, segregating the internet into “fast lanes” for corporate entities that can afford them and lumping in other sites into slower channels. It’s not difficult to imagine this setup favoring the already wealthy, but conversely, the impact on small business could be equally devastating. The crux of the debate: speed and bandwidth. While the rules that FCC head Tom Wheeler proposes make very clear that any legal content on the internet cannot be blocked, there is a difference between not allowing content to

In a recent article on Eweek, the concept of providing free Wifi to customers in a small business location was explored, with business owners reporting that the addition of free internet connectivity for their customers created a slew of positive effects, including 65% saying free internet has contributed to repeat business and 55% also stating that their Wifi policy has brought brand new business through the door. When considering what kind of perks to offer, think about what you can afford in your budget over the possibility of creating more sales. How many sales do you have make to account for the cost of the perks you are offering? Some things, such as new decor or an additional seating area, can be a one time cost, whereas Wifi is a monthly cost. Either way, if your investment is not able to be recouped, it is not gong to be worth the effort to put out there. The cost of Wifi is relatively  cheap, however. If you

Increasingly, the reach of a small business extends far beyond the confines of a town or city thanks to the internet. The ability of a business to be found thanks to websites, social media accounts, reviews and local directories means that they can significantly increase their exposure and the amount of business they are able to do via online channels. Going beyond digital marketing, there are many applications that businesses rely on that are now integrated or completely dependent on the internet, and the speed of a business’s network can either accelerate or throttle the productivity of a team of employees. In the media, Google Fiber and the attempts by up and coming cities across the US to be chosen as participants in the first releases of the service highlight the fact that many business owners are still unsatisfied with the speed and reliability of their internet service. While some of the issues that can cut into a business’s productivity can be solved or mitigated by

As small business owners face a dearth or small business loan options, Federal regulations, the new healthcare market and a slew of industry related concerns, they are also growing and adapting to an increasingly internet reliant commercial world. Because of the heavy emphasis of internet based communications in modern business, small businesses will generally need an IT staff after they hit a certain point in their growth. Knowing when this goes from a nice to have to a need to have is an important part of managing your small business, considering that not only is IT a powerful resource and business accelerator, but also a potential major pitfall when mismanaged. Here are some signs that can indicate to small business owners that they should seriously consider making the time and capital investments required to secure a full time IT staff. Do you have tech savvy employees who wind up helping others a large amount of the time? If you have a multi-generational staff in particular, it

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