In an effort to get a bigger share of the IT budgets of the 7.9 million American SMBs, Hewlett-Packard has unveiled a new line of products and services. The new products for small and medium-size businesses include everything from computers to servers. In addition, they’ve introduced new financing options, also aimed at SMBs. They are providing over $1,000 in software and services, and up to $2,000 in rebates for SMBs that make hardware purchases.
As far as computers go, the Pro 3000 series desktop and the ProLiant ML110 and DL120 G6 servers are all new and aimed at SMBs. As is the ProCurve 2520 Switch series which is great for SMBs looking to deploy voice, video, and wireless applications requiring power over ethernet. There’s also a new printer for SMBs, the LaserJetP2055D which costs about $299, along with two low-power monitors, the Compaq LE1911 and the Compaq LE1711.
A number of new storage products including the StorageWorks DAT 320 Tape Drive, the StorageWorks D2D backup system, and the LeftHand P4000 storage area network, were introduced, as were bundles of hardware and software that help SMBs introduce virtualization to their IT departments. They are built on ProLiant, ProCurve and StorageWorks products, as well as Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2.
In addition to the new products, HP also introduced a number of new online services. They allow users to communicate with employees and contacts and make it easier for IT employees to access, view, and control other computers to help with troubleshooting and fixing problems. HP is also offering Huddlenet which allows for easier collaboration, project management and document sharing. A 30-day trial with 20 GB of storage and that’s big enough for 20 work stations is available.
According to Interactive Data Corp, SMBs will spend more on IT than larger businesses as the economy continues to recover. HP is just one of several companies hoping to tap into that business and they could use it. Their profits fell 19% and revenue 2% in the quarter that ended on July 31st.
According to the Constant Contact Annual Holiday Survey, 52% of small businesses, who participated in the Small Business Holiday Outlook Survey, expect their holiday season sales to improve over last year. Last year, only less than a third of business owners were as optimistic. Constant Contact, a leading provider of marketing and survey tools for small organizations, said that many respondents expressed overall optimism about the state of the economy.
If you own a small or medium-sized business, chances are you are anxious about your own holidays sales, regardless of what your outlook on the economy is, here are some tips and recommendations for improving your sales and getting your company noticed, this holiday season:
1. Get Your Customers Involved – Survey your customers to find out what they’d like to see go on sale and use social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to reach customers and potential customers. If you decide to let a popular vote determine your sale products, chances are customers will pass the word along to friends and family who can also vote, in turn, getting the word out about your company.
2. Brand Yourself – Make sure you have a good company logo and use it everywhere, along with your name, message and tone. Consistency in communication is key and will help reinforce your brand.
3. Link Yourself – Have a company website? Company Blog? Company social networking accounts? If not, consider getting them and putting a little time and effort into them. Customers will use them to find out more about your company.
4. Host a Holiday Event – Show your customers how much you appreciate them by hosting a holiday-themed shopping event with discount incentives. Make sure you market and promote your event via social networks and other outlets.
5. Don’t Forget Last-Minute Shoppers – They’re out there. Don’t stop marketing a few days before Christmas. Many people wait until after the holiday to their shopping, in hopes of getting great deals and customers are usually loaded with Christmas money or gift cards after the big day.
6. Remember Why You Stand Out – Do you customers return because of your excellent customer service or because you offer services that other businesses do not? Remind your customers of that every chance you get, through emails, your website, and any other marketing tools you use. Remember, not every customer is looking for the best deal.
SMB owners are borrowing money again, or so says a study conducted by PayNet Inc for Reuters. The study found that smaller “microcompanies” are gaining confidence in their business and enjoying an overall improved financial health, which is good news for the economy. These businesses are often thought of as the best hope for job creation during economic recovery.
According to the study, which examined loans, leases, and lines of credit activity, businesses with less than $100,000 in outstanding debt are borrowing cautiously to invest money into their own companies. Financing originations are still down but they are no longer failing faster than the originations for larger small businesses (or those who have debt totalling above $100,000). This is an improvement over the last three years.
“This looks like an inflection point,” William Phelan, the president of PayNet, said of the study. “These little businesses are a leading indicator and the signals they’re sending are improving.”
Another encouraging sign is that delinquencies among these companies peaked at some point during the spring of this year, but have since began to improve. Phelan says a correlation can be made between microbusiness borrowing delinquencies and GDP and that makes for another encouraging sign.
Currently, most recovery efforts have come from a government stimulus effort, including the auto industry’s “cash for clunkers” and $8,000 tax credits fro first-time home buyers. But experts say a true recovery must come from private industry and customer demand, particularly small businesses.
And while critics have blasted banks who received government bailout money for not turning around and investing the money into the economy, several big banks have recently announced plans to do more small business lending. These institutions include Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, and Goldman Sachs.
PayNet provides risk management tools to the commercial lending industry. The company collects real-time loan information, including orginations and delinquencies, from over 225 leading U.S. capital equipment lenders and its proprietary database encompasses more than 16 million old and new contracts worth about $700 billion.
If you own or manage a small or medium business, you probably don’t get a lot of time to yourself. After seeing to it that your company is running smoothly, taking care of your family, and tending to other mundane daily chores, there is not a lot of time to relax or beat stress. These days, there’s an iPhone app for everything (and in some instances, hundreds for everything) and beating stress is no different. People are turning to their cell phones for everything from job hunting to cooking, so, why not take a few minutes out of your busy day and let your iPhone help you relax? Below you’ll find a list of great apps that will help beat stress in a variety of ways.
If you are simply looking for quick stress relief that you can take advantage of in you car, at your desk, or while you’re sitting in an airport, here are a few great apps to take advantage of.
1. Massage Me – Allows you to use your phone’s vibration to give yourself a quick massage.
2. iHateMyJob – Vent about work, but don’t be surprised if you get some good advice in return.
3. Fracture – In the mood to break things? This app lets you break your iPhone…virtually, of course!
4. Stress Shaker – Watch a boat sail the ocean as the app provides you with thought provoking quotes. If you’re really stressed, shake your phone. The more you shake your phone, the more appropriate the quotes become to your stress level.
5. Stress Relief: Smash Edition – With this app, you can “smash” everything from electronics to food to coffee mugs.
Maybe you don’t have time to exercise and would like to squeeze in a quick workout at lunch, while you’re traveling, or anytime. Here are some of the top apps that will make it easier for you to get in a little stress-reducing workout each day:
1. iPump and Fitness Builder – provides you with a variety of workouts and you can narrow them down based on your location (ie: hotel room)
2. FitDeck – this app offers you instruction on a number of basic exercises that can be done anywhere, using only your own body weight.
3. Yoga Relax – offers soothing music, simple poses, and workouts for 1-36 minutes.
4. Run Keeper – if you want to go for a job, this app will track your pace, speed, and elevation, as well as track your run on a map, which is really good for new and unusual locations
5. Yoga Trainer Pro – customize your own workout with hundreds of poses that can be done anytime, anywhere
If you think being more organized would help relieve you of some of your daily stress, you’re right! Maintaining home and business life isn’t easy, and there are also apps to help you organize the rest of your life:
1. To Do’s – does exactly what the name says. Create your “to do” list, and move items up and down according to priority.
2. Grocery IQ – This app allows you to jot down your grocery list as you think of it. Remember you need milk while in you’re a meeting? Just type it into your iPhone and let the app categorize your purchases.
3. Flight Track – This is pretty self-explanatory. Have to pick up a relative or business client at the airport? Track flight times, departures and more.
4. The Weather Channel – There’s nothing worse than showing up to work in a sweater when it’s 80 degrees outside, or forgetting your umbrella when your day requires you to travel across town on the rainiest day of the year.
5. Evernote – By far, the most popular app for note-taking. It ranks highest on almost every “top” list on every website across the web.
- Password Length – According to David Campbell, a security consultant, passwords should be made up of 12 characters. It would cost a criminal approximately $1.5 million of hacking with an application to successfully break a a 12-character password. Some recommend using a mnemonic device so you can easily remember a longer password, even repeating one if need be.
- Don’t Mix Business & Pleasure – You don’t want your entire company to know your dog’s name is your password for your work email system, as well as your Facebook account. This could cause all sorts of problems. Chances are, no one in your company will ever need to know your passwords, but if they are able to uncover them, do you want them snooping around your personal life, as well as your professional life?
- Never Write Your Password Down – If you keep a log of all of your passwords at your desk, or the information is stuck on sticky notes all around your cubicle, it wouldn’t be hard for a an employee to sneak over and glance at your information. As a matter of fact, most SMBs tend to have employees located in close quarters, making this an easier way for someone to get a hold of your password information.
- Never Give Your Password to Anyone – No one in your company should ever ask for your password. Administrators should be able to reset your password without knowing what it is. If someone from your IT department asks for your password, no matter how small your company is, something is probably up.
- Remind your employees – They may get tired of hearing you tell them to “be careful” but ultimately it is your duty to protect your business. Remind your employees of these tips and any others you cant think of, often. One wrong move and it could cost your company thousands of dollars.
With the economy slowly climbing out of a recession and the holidays right around the corner, many SMBs are debating what to do for their annual holiday parties, or even whether or not to have their parties at all. According to Newsday.com, only 62% of companies plan to have some sort of celebration this year. That’s down from last year’s 77%.
But even if you’re on a tight budget, you don’t want to do away with your company’s holiday plans. A little creativity goes a long way and a it’s always a great idea to let your employees know how much you appreciate them. Some companies are allowing their employees to have their parties, if the employees will pitch in. For example, having a potluck luncheon, where every employee brings a different dish.
At Super Enterprises, a company based in Melville, New York, the company opted for a lunch instead of an extravagant party. Managment cooked the food in rented ovens for the entire team. As a matter of fact, keeping your office party on-site is a great way to save money. You can let your employees decorate the office and hand out gifts instead of renting a facility for a night.
Another way to keep your holiday party relatively inexpensive is to switch up your menu. If you usually serve steak or fish, try grilling hamburgers and hotdogs or even a breakfast buffet. Or maybe even skip the real food all together and just have dessert. A sundae buffet is a fun idea for your employees. Any kind of buffet verses a full course meal is sure to help save money.
If you do end up renting an off-site facility, there are still a few ways to safely stay within your budget. Forego the full bar and serve wine or a smaller selection of drinks. Also, you can limit party guests to employees only, or insist employees bring only one guest.
No matter what you end up doing for your holiday party, just keep in mind that the important thing is to have fun and let your employees know how much they mean to you throughout the year.
Recently, Internet2Go analyst Greg Sterling conducted a survey of over 2,400 small business owners about the subject of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The survey was aimed at members of the business social network MerchantCircle, who publish content frequently. His findings were that 45% of small companies, with less than 100 employees, confirmed that they do use Twitter and Facebook to promote their businesses, but Sterling also found that many businesses were not sure how effective their online promotions were due to their lack of knowledge of how to measure the effectiveness.
In an interview with eWeek.com, Sterling said he was surprised at the high percentage, considering many of the companies surveyed do not have the money or resources to spend on sophisticated marketing plans, “For these guys, costs was a big factor. They either need to hire a dedicated person or need more resources and don’t have it.”
80% of businesses surveyed had four or fewer employees, while 79% had annual marketing budgets of less than $5,000. 44% of the businesses said they actually spend less than $1,000 on advertising. 26% of participants said online marketing simply costs too much and another 16% said they just don’t have the time to partake in it. Facebook and Twitter are both free and setting up an account is simple and not at all time-consuming.
So what does this mean? Sterling seems to think that in the future, more and more small businesses will fore go traditional, more competitive forms of advertising such as search engine marketing to focus on social media. “We are going to see more and more of this behavior from other small businesses because it’s free and you don’t have to have expertise to set up these pages,” he told eWeek.
The downside to using Twitter or Facebook is the lack of ability to measure how many visits your account page is getting, but if the social media phenomenon holds up, it’s almost certain some sort of social media marketing measurement tool will become available.
These days, cell phones are becoming an important part of many different businesses. If you own an iPhone, there are even more ways to put your phone to work; the App Store has over 2,000 business apps! Below is a list of some of the must-haves:
Oracle Business Indicators: The Oracle Business Indicators app provides real-time business performance and information. Customize your financial, HR, supply chain, and customer relationship management analytics for free, as long as you own a version Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Enterprise Edition Plus or Oracle Business Intelligence Applications.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com fans and users can access the website anytime, anywhere with the LinkedIn iPhone app. Send and receive invitations, messages, post status updates, and find contact info. The best part is, it’s free.
Thomson Reuters: The Reuters app keeps you up to date on breaking news, global market information – including deals and mergers – and allows you to personalize lists of stocks and companies to watch. Browse in-depth company profiles with business descriptions, contact information, and employee profiles, and search relevant location-specific news. There is also technology, sports and entertainment news.
FedEx mobile: With the FedEx mobile app, you’ll find up to date information on the status of your shipments by creating a watch list for important packages or inputting tracking numbers to track packages individually. Info can be personalized and all tracked FedEd packages appear automatically in the system.
Salesforce.com: This app allows business users to view and edit Salesforce.com records, accounts, opportunities and leads, as well as access account activity as needed. The app comes in two versions: Mobile Lite provides you with a stripped down version of the website, to all customers with Professional, Enterprise, or Unlimited Edition licenses; the full version allows you to create, edit, and delete capabilities and requires you to have the Unlimited Edition or Mobile license.
Huddle: The Huddle iPhone app allows you to share files, manage projects, organize virtual meetings, access your data on the go (including tasks, discussions, spreadsheets and presentations) and so much more.
Adobe LiveCycle: This one is also free, but you must have Adobe LiveCycle Process Management ES2 configured. The Adobe LiveCycle app allows you to connect to your lists of pending tasks and process, and approve or reject them directly from your phone. You can also view PDF files, call or email task initiators and share task lists with colleagues.
RSA SecurID token: If you need to access sensitive networked information that is protected by RSA SecurID, this app allows you to do it directly from your iPhone, with your phone becoming a software authenticator. You can import a software token that will generate a SecurID password and eliminate the need to carry an authenticator. Again, this app is free but you must already own RSA Authentication Manager and RSA SecurID Software Token Seeds.
Cisco Mobile: This app provides you with access to your company’s internal phone system, allowing you to join meetings, answer business calls and check your voicemail. It also alerts you to missed calls, redirects business calls to your iPhone and allows you to dial via the office. You may also join Cisco Unified MeetingPlace via your phone. While the app is free, you must have a Cisco Unified Mobility Advantage server to use it.
Various Airline Apps: Many airlines offer free apps that provide you with up-to-the-minute information on flight arrival and departure for that particular airline. Browse flight schedules, plan your itineraries, or book and manage flights, and check-in online with these apps, depending on what airline you fly.
NetSuite: This one provides mobile access to NetSuites business management suite. Access real-time dashboards, financial and customer data, including sales orders, support cases and opportunities, and task management. Free to all current NetSuite users.
Wyse PocketCloud: User can manage their entire Windows desktop, data, and applications with this app. It offers secure Remote Desktop, VMware View, Thin-Browser and automatic keyboard activation when users install the free PocketCloud Windows Companion on their desktops.
Citrix Receiver: This app allows you to access any Windows app or document directly on your iPhone so that you may open documents, update reports, approve expenses and join webinars. You can also use the app to zoom, pan, click, scroll and type. All of your data is saved on your company’s network. It uses Citrix HDX technology to deliver multi-media content. This is another free app, but it requires you to have a wi-fi or 3G connection, also XenApp Web Services and Citrix XenApp 5 or Presentation Server 4.5.
iAnywhere Mobile: With this app, you can have access to Lotus Domino and Micrsoft Exchange, and supports email, calendars, tasks and contacts, as well as providing email push notification. It includes several great security features such as password protection, data encryption, and on-demand data wipe.
Skype: Call anyone with a skype account or send instant messages with this app – as long as you have a mobile data connection or wi-fi access. You may also use it to call landlines worldwide at cheap rates and send cheap texts.
Evernote: This app allows you to create text, picture and audio notes and then synch them with a Mac, PC, or the internet. You may also access them offline. Each note includes geo-location information for mapping and search.
“All businesses should be prepared for the upcoming flu season. They should have a pandemic plan that has the flexibility to adapt to various scenarios from fairly mild to severe,” Dr. John Halpin of the Center for Disease Control said in an interview with Newsday.com.
One of the first things a business can do to prevent a flu outbreak is focus on prevention. Advise sick employees to stay home and insist they not return to work until at least 24 hours after having a fever. Some business owners may even want to encourage their employees to get a flu vaccine. And as is good practice any time of year, encourage your employees to wash their hands often, and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. A lot of prevention comes down to just plain common sense.
But even the most preventative measures may not work and for this reason, business owners should have a plan in place for keeping things running smoothly when a large percentage of employees are sick at the same time. Make sure employees are cross-trained to handle various positions within your company. Keep the number of an employment agency handy, in case you need temporary workers.
And of course, there’s always the possibility you or your managing staff could become ill. In that case, documenting general operating procedures is a must, along with keeping a list of important contact information for anyone who might be taking over operating procedures. Make sure you have someone who is knowledgeable and whom you can trust to oversee your business in the event that you do sick. And one of the most important things you can do is to be flexible.
Should your company become affected and become part of a flu pandemic, there are a few things to remember. First of all, have your plan handy and refer to it. If possible, enable your employees to telecommute or work remotely. Make sure you sanitize any affected areas and something many business owners may not think about it letting an employee bring their child to work in the event schools are closed.
A little planning and flexibility can go a long way when it comes to a flu pandemic and taking the time out to make a plan can save your business thousands of dollars.