Dealing With Employee Procrastination: Can Science Help?



Scientific studies have indicated that procrastination seems to be a conflict between two parts of the brain: the fun loving limbic system and the sensible prefrontal cortex. In a choice of after work activities, kicking back with a beer and TV usually wins out over going to the gym. Or you get on the computer to work on the budget, but think, “Hmm, I’ll just check my twitter account.”

“We all do it; it’s part of our nature,”  Piers Steel, a psychologist at the University of Calgary and a leading researcher in procrastination, says in an article in Discover Magazine. “You never want the same cues for play and for work,” because when it comes to a choice, work will lose almost every time. Steel also adds, “Sometimes just a minute or two delay of the temptation makes you far more likely to make a rational choice.” He’s designing programs that put in a delay of 20 seconds before accessing such distractions as email or Twitter.

Banks have taken notice of this research. An article published in the Journal of Marketing Research, “Increasing Saving Behavior Through Age-Progressed Renderings of the Future Self” has inspired the use of that very tactic to motivate people to save more in their retirement accounts which benefits that business.

So, how can small businesses take advantage of this concept?

There are websites designed to help the average person or business to make use of these motivational techniques to improve employee procrastination. Strategies range from charging money for failures to cheers and encouragement for success. These businesses also help organize a plan to increase work productivity.

Resources to Help With Employee Procrastination

Beeminder ‘stings’ when you go off the rails. This site asks you to set up goals for yourself. This might be exercise 3Xweek, or work on spreadsheet every weekday. Beeminder will send an email asking you to verify the meeting of the goal. Missing it will cost you whatever you’ve pledged, e.g. five dollars.

Beeminder plots the optimal results of your goals on a chart, colored in yellow, calling it the ‘Yellow Brick Road’. Your true path is colored in turquoise making it easy to compare your progress.

The website states, “Your company can design unique Commitment Contracts, aimed at improving the health or performance of your employees. From losing weight to smoking cessation, or meeting deadlines to exceeding sales targets, any goal can be made into a Commitment Contract. To improve success rates, employers can assign referees and reward participants.”

It utilizes both monetary penalties and supervisory oversight as in a referee that verifies your reports. Access can be granted to friends and family who may want to cheer you on.

StickK has a section committed to giving corporate and institutional entities tools to help their employees be more productive.

This website also caters to the need of businesses, but takes a unique approach. Habitica uses a computer game technique. Your goals are ‘monsters’ to be defeated and, like most computer games, you build your avatar and acquire weapons. You can compete with friends or join an interest group.

The corporate plan allows for a special site to be built for the company’s employees independent of Habitica’s site and give controls to the employers.

While this website gives out good tips to deal with procrastination, it also gives a hand by blocking access to distracting websites during a set time designated to work on a project., as the name suggests gives gives out the sound and ambience of a coffee shop. The website claims scientific backing for this service. The idea seems to be that if you are working alone, the illusion of other people working away is inspiring to the work process.

Now this site is hard core. It keeps tabs on how steady you are writing and if the flow stops for too long the punishment steps in. The more mellow of these are the taking away of pleasant background sound or beautiful background. The harsher consequence might be an ugly popup to scare you or even worse, it’ll take out all the vowels of part of your work. You set up your choice and then experiment with works best for you.

In the end, building good habits depends on the determination and need of the individual. Goals are good, rewards and punishments can help, but it all depends on truthfulness and cooperation.

Daydreaming Photo via Shutterstock


Only 3 Percent of Small Business Reported a Bad Year, Per SurePayroll


Small business owners generally operate with slim margins, and when a good year comes along it is a cause for celebration.

The November SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey revealed a lot of good news, with only a very small percentage of responding small business owners experiencing a bad year.

According to the survey, only 3 percent of the small business owners surveyed said they had a bad 2015. Most said it was a positive year, and the break down highlights the varied environment that is the domain of the small business owner.

“I don’t think we can say we’re seeing any kind of a boom period, but definitely a positive trend, and our data is coming from a diverse set of businesses,” said SurePayroll General Manager Andy Roe.

From best to worst, 12 percent had the best year they’ve ever had, with 38 percent stating it was good to great. A little over a third or 36 percent had an average year, and the remaining 11 percent experienced a below average year, but not bad.

As for their outlooks regarding growth, 54 percent expect a certain percentage growth every year, while 28 percent expect it to remain the same year to year, with 18 percent reporting it is hard to predict.

The goals of the survey participants were also different, with 45 percent indicating profit is not their only motivation. For them, the most important metric is to grow total revenue as well as the size of their customer base. To drive this growth, owners said in 2016 they will better manage their expenses, implement new technologies and equipment.

One survey participant said, “I consider my first year of business to have gone better than what I expected. I am very enthusiastic about next year and the years to come.”

While the overall outlook was positive, Stefan Schumacher of SurePayroll  said the construction, insurance and medical industries faced some challenges, with low profit margins, law restrictions and benefit cut backs affecting the sectors in that order. The segments that saw increased demand included information technology, which is indicative of the digitalization of the world we live in.

The optimism index was mostly positive, with 68 percent of small business owners saying they are optimistic about the economy. It was up 3, 5, and 8 percent from the previous one, two, and three years respectively.

The success many of the small business owners experienced has been attributed to having an exceptional staff, and conversely the challenges were because finding the right or qualified talent continues to be a problem.

Roe went on to say, “On the flip side, many of the success stories we heard about had to do with having a great team, bringing in more skilled employees and being able to pay them more. Just like they do with bringing on and retaining new clients, a lot of small business owners take pride in the people they’re able to hire and keep with the company.”

surepayroll small business scorecard november 2015

Image: SurePayroll


Women Owned Business Sees 12 Percent Rise in Revenue, Says Biz2Credit

women owned business study

Woman power rocked business in 2015.

That’s according to a new 2016 women-owned business study by Biz2Credit, a leading online marketplace which has found that average revenues of women-owned businesses increased 12 percent in a year-to-year comparison. Average earnings also rose to $72,529 in 2015, up from $67,950 in 2014.

In comparison, businesses owned by men generated about 60 percent more revenue on average than women-owned businesses.

What’s also interesting is that there was a whopping 130 percent increase in women-owned companies seeking funding on the Biz2Credit platform, highlighting the growing popularity of woman entrepreneurship.

Good Times for Woman-Owned Companies

Several factors have contributed to the changing fortunes of woman-owned companies.

To begin with, favorable economic conditions have made it simpler for women entrepreneurs to get loans. Marketplace lenders are charging attractive interest rates and offering longer terms to benefit women-owned businesses.

What’s also worked in favor of these businesses is that mainstream financial institutions typically look at three years of credit history to approve small business loans for women, making it easier for the relatively new entrepreneurs to secure funds. On top of that, online lending portals are playing a big role in connecting borrowers to banks, micro lenders, and marketplace lenders.

Another factor that has helped women entrepreneurs thrive is the reduced startup costs. Companies no longer need invest a lot to setup their offices and hire full-time employees to grow.

“Improved economic conditions and historically low interested rates have created an atmosphere perfect for entrepreneurship, resulting in an increase of loan requests,” says Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora. “When the economy is strong, we notice that more entrepreneurs request funding to expand operations.”

Challenges Still Persist

Despite the growth, the 2016 women-owned business study indicates approval rates for women owned businesses were 33 percent lower than the rates for businesses owned by men. A major factor that would have contributed to the low approval rates is the average credit scores for women owned companies that remained stagnant at 600 in 2015.

Arora says, “There are many factors that come into play when considering loan approval rates, a business’s track record of revenue and credit scores are among the most important, so it isn’t too surprising that loan approval rates for women-owned businesses were lower.”

Arora feels there is a substantial gender gap that still exists, but it’s fast narrowing. That’s why it’s important to encourage more women entrepreneurs.

For the 2016 women-owned business study, Biz2Credit analyzed more than 35,000 applications from small business owners on its platform during 2015. You can view the key findings in the infographic below:

2016 women owned business study

Images: Biz2Credit

More in: Women Entrepreneurs


Retail Sales to Grow 3.1 Percent, National Retail Federation Reports

retail sales growth

Retail spending will see a 3.1 percent growth across 2016, the National Retail Federation reports.

America’s largest retail group said in its annual economic forecast that employment gains and increasing consumer confidence were slowly helping to steer the U.S. economy back into growth.

As a result of that improving economic climate, researchers reckon spending in 2016 will outpace the retail industry’s ten-year average of 2.7 percent.

This year’s growth will be led by America’s rapidly expanding digital retail market. Non-store sales are expected to enjoy a noticeable spike in the coming months, settling somewhere between six and nine percent. This subcategory includes sales made online, via mobile devices and by catalog.

National Retail Federation Reports More Spending Likely

Retailers can also expect to see a boost in sales this year thanks to rock-bottom oil prices. Although consumers have been enjoying major savings at the pump since late 2014, a low level of confidence in the US economy pushed consumers to sit on that extra pocket money rather than release it back into the retail market.

As a result, retail activity across 2015 turned out to be lackluster at best. The National Retail Federation had initially predicted spending to increase by 4.1 percent at the start of 2015 — but the group later downgraded their forecast to 3.5 percent.

According to Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation, 2016 should be different.

“Wage stagnation is easing, jobs are being created and consumer confidence remains steady, so despite the headwinds our economy faces from international developments — particularly in China — we think 2016 will be favorable for growth in the retail industry,” Shay said. “All of the experts agree that the consumer is in the driver’s seat and steering our economic recovery.”

In addition to a positive sales outlook for 2016, the National Retail Federation is anticipating the US economy as a whole to post growth of up to 2.4 percent. The group also expects to see employment gains of some 190,000 per month, bringing unemployment down by approximately 4.6 percent.

As a result of improving job prospects, researchers said that small businesses can expect to see more consumer spending in 2016. But this rise will stem from job growth rather than increasing wages.

Despite these promising forecasts for 2016, Shay warned that retail growth will depend entirely upon the US government’s ability to leave the retail sector free to go about its business.

“The best thing the government can do is stay out of the way, stop proposing rules and regulations that create hurdles toward greater capital investment and focus on policies that help retailers provide increased income and job stability for their employees,” he said.

Image: National Retail Federation


Top Cities for Entrepreneurs (infographic)

Best Cities to Start a BusinessEmbed this Infographic on your Site

You can start a business just about anywhere; it’s true.

But over the past four weeks we’ve taken a particularly close look at some of the cities across the U.S. where entrepreneurs seem to be starting them the most.

What we’ve found is that not only are there cities that seem to serve as hotbeds for entrepreneurial activity in general, it goes a bit deeper than that.

There are also places where statistically certain kinds of entrepreneurs seem to start business with greater regularity than others.

Drawing on research from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, we compiled lists of the 30 top cities for women entrepreneurs, the 30 top cities for minority entrepreneurs and the 30 top cities for small business entrepreneurs.

But that’s not all!

We also looked at the possible reasons certain communities seemed to be favored by some entrepreneurs over others.

Below, you’ll see a full infographic showing off that research. (We hope you’ll share it with others using the embed link provided.)

We also drew from another study by financial empowerment site NerdWallet to compile a list of the 10 best cities for young entrepreneurs, in case you’re interested. (Sorry, that data wasn’t included in our infographic below.)

What are we hoping readers will take away from this series and the information it imparts?

One thing might be that, while you certainly can start a business anywhere, it’s a good idea to look around at the community where you’re thinking about getting  started.

Does it have the right labor pool, customer base, income level, even education level to make your business a success?

Businesses thrive in ecosystems that provide just the right mix of factors critical for their success. Enjoy the information below and start thinking about whether your community has the right balance of resources, available customers and more to make your company a success.

Best Cities to Start a Business

Best Cities to Start a Business


Texas, Utah Rank High as Small Business Friendly States, Survey Says

Texas, Utah Rank High as Small Business Friendly States, Survey Says

Running a company successfully is a challenge no matter where you are located, but in some business-friendly cities and states entrepreneurs have a relatively easier time.

Small Business Friendly States and Cities

According to a new study by Thumbtack, San Antonio and Nashville are the friendliest cities to small businesses.

Among the states, Texas and Utah are the top favorites. Connecticut and Illinois, on the other hand, fare poorly as they are deemed the least friendly states for doing business. Syracuse and Oxnard are the worst ranked cities.

Participants said the most important factor impacting their success and ability to start, grow and sustain a thriving business is regulation that’s straightforward and easy to follow.

Key Drivers of Business Friendliness

Professionals who found their governments to be small business-friendly were most likely to rate them positively on tax regulations, licensing requirements and labor and hiring rules. That’s because these factors have consistently ranked among the top concerns for businesses since 2012.

In this year’s survey, the influence of these factors depended on the level of government.

Perceptions of licensing friendliness were more critical for city rankings because local authorities are often more responsible for permits, licensing and other forms to run a business.

“Skilled professionals on Thumbtack report that when government regulations complicate obtaining licenses and permits, hiring employees, and paying taxes, it is harder to start and grow a business,” Lucas Puente, economist at Thumbtack told Small Biz Trends.

“The highest-rated governments make regulations easy to comply with and enforce them consistently. They also invest in helpful training programs and government websites. These insights provide a roadmap for policy makers to create environments that foster entrepreneurship and innovation-outcomes critical for continued economic growth.”

About the Survey and Thumbtack

Thumbtack is an online platform dedicated to connecting local small businesses with customers. Those businesses range from plumbers and house painters to therapists and more. Businesses are able to compete for customers interested in their services via the use of a bidding system.

The annual Thumbtack Small Business Friendliness Survey has been conducted since 2012. For this year’s study, Thumbtack surveyed more than 12,000 U.S. small business owners who collectively graded 35 states and 78 cities on the government policies that impact their businesses.

To mark the fifth anniversary of the survey, Thumbtack also released a special report highlighting the top policy concerns for skilled professionals with in-depth case studies of five cities from five different regions: Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis and San Francisco.

Photo via Thumbtack


Sage Study Paints Portrait of the Millennial Entrepreneur

Sage Study Paints Portrait of the Millennial Entrepreneur

Concerns about an impending economic slowdown are a worry for most businesses. But young millennials are unfazed as they appear optimistic about the future, according to a new survey.

The global study by software company Sage shows young millennials are driven by a desire for independence, a belief in social good and a commitment to employee happiness.

Their results are based on a survey that included 7,400 millennial entrepreneurs from 16 countries across the world.

Insights into the Millennial Mind

The survey reveals about 65 percent of millennials believe they will start more than one business during their lifetime. It also shows millennials can’t wait to get started, as 34 percent say they want to make their businesses huge and become famous within the next five years.

Kriti Sharma, Director of Product Management, Mobile at Sage explains, “As a millennial entrepreneur myself I know first-hand that this business group are shaking things up. We’re rejecting established patterns of working and making technology work for us. We see business through a new lens. We’re willing to work hard, but want flexibility in how, when and with whom we do business.”

Another key finding of the study is that 66 percent of respondents prioritize life over work and the vast majority sacrifice profits for their own values and ethics.

Five Workplace Personality Types of the Millennial Entrepreneur

Apart from giving insight into how millennials view entrepreneurship, the study presents five distinct millennial profiles based on behaviors.

Five workplace personality types identified include:

The Principled Planners who are extremely methodical in their approach to work. They enjoy carefully planning for success.

The Driven Techies who love their work and can’t bear the thought of sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

The Instinctive Explorers who are not afraid to explore uncharted territory. They trust their gut instincts and stick to their guns.

The Real Worlders who are more likely to rely on technology to succeed.

The Thrill-Seekers who are easily bored. They always look for the next challenge and do not care about appearances.

“Millennial entrepreneurs have a huge role to play in the start-up economy and are shaping the modern workplace at great pace,” explains Stephen Kelly, Sage CEO.

“But they can’t be grouped together as a homogenous stereotype. Our research shows that they fall into distinct camps with specific hopes, fears, concerns and ways of working. They will be our next generation of business builders, the heroes of the economy, and understanding what makes them tick now stands us all in good stead for the future. That’s true of the people that want to do business with them, buy from them, hire them or create policy that helps them to grow.”

UK-based Sage Software is the world’s third-largest supplier of enterprise resource planning software and the largest supplier to small businesses.

Millennial Businessperson Photo via Shutterstock


85 Percent of Small Businesses Set to Invest More in SaaS (Infographic)

SAAS Industry Trends - 85 Percent of Small Businesses Set to Invest More in SaaS (Infographic)

Just a couple of years ago, businesses looked at Software as a Service (SaaS) with some apprehension primarily because of security risks. A lot has changed since then. Today more than 85 percent of small business executives are willing to invest more in SaaS solutions over the next five years, according to research by Intuit.

What’s led to this change? Shifts in technology, particularly mobile devices and reliance on digital, says Gartner.

The tech research giant even predicts that by 2020, about a quarter of organizations in emerging regions will be running their core CRM systems via SaaS. That’s a 10 percent increase over 2012.

The data has been compiled and analyzed by software company Better Buys in its 2016 Report on the State of SaaS.

SAAS Industry Trends – Key Highlights of the 2016 Report on the State of SaaS

The report provides some interesting insights on SaaS adoption by small businesses. Here are a few important takeaways:

  • About 64 percent of small and medium-sized businesses rely on cloud-based technology to drive growth and boost workflow efficiency, finds cloud computing services company BCSG.
  • SaaS is expected to grow to $12 billion in 2016, and jump to $16 billion in 2017, and continue to grow year over year to an estimated $55 billion by 2026.
  • About 90 percent of mobile data traffic will be generated by cloud solutions by 2019.
  • Nearly half (43 percent) of small business owners use mobile as the primary devices for running their operations.

How a Small Business Can Benefit from SaaS

A large number of small businesses are opting for SaaS to automate everyday tasks and optimize important workflows. It’s not difficult to understand why. The best thing about SaaS is that it makes it easier for companies to add and access information whenever and wherever they want.

What also works in favor of SaaS is the flexibility small businesses get out of using it. Instead of investing in expensive IT infrastructure, small companies need to just pay for an ongoing subscription. For cash-strapped businesses, this translates into savings.

“Budgets are being decreased and the business units are already going out and buying SaaS without talking to the IT departments about it. They’re finding that they get more choice, they get it faster, they get it with less hassle — it’s instant gratification if you will,” Gartner VP and fellow Daryl Plummer tells ZDNet.

It’s an interesting time for small businesses to take advantage of advanced SaaS solutions. There are many SaaS startups offering great solutions to help businesses navigate today’s social marketplace.

With so many choices available, small businesses should focus on identifying solutions that work best for them.

Check out this infographic from Better Buys:

SAAS Industry Trends - SAAS Actual and Projected Expenditures

Images: BetterBuys


Here’s What Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do (Infographic)

This Infographic Shows You How to Make Apps Your Small Business Customers Will Love

Dear Small Business Trends,

All right already, I get it. 2016 is the year that small businesses must develop mobile apps and going mobile is more important and affordable than ever.

So, I’m gonna build a mobile app for my small business because I want to reap the benefits and keep up with my competitors, but before I start, I have just one question: what should it do?

Thanks in advance for your reply, 

Small Business Owner

Great question Small Business Owner! The pressure to build an app for your small business is as great today as the pressure to build a website was back in 2005.

While you can find a lot of information about the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ of mobile business apps online, it’s harder to find information on the ‘What’. In other words, what should your small business app do?

How to Make Apps That Your Customers Will Love

We took to the web to dig up the information you need to figure that out and put our findings into the infographic below. Also, make sure to look underneath the infographic for more details.

Click here to download a larger version of the infographic…

Feel free to share this infographic (attribution required) on
your own site by copying and pasting the code below:

<p style="text-align:center;"><a href=""><img style="border:none;width:100%;" src="" alt="Here’s What Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do" /></a></p><p style="font-weight:bold; font-style: italic; text-align:center;">This infographic first appeared in <a href="" target="_blank">Small Business Trends</a>.</p>

Here’s What Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do

How do Business Needs Align with Customer Desire?

One interesting detail we uncovered while researching the infographic was this chart from Clutch:

Reasons Small Businesses Make Apps

So, how closely did the top three reasons in the chart above align with what small business customers want your app to do? Are there ways to make both sides happy?

As the statistics in both the infographic above and the table below demonstrate, there sure are!

Reason Businesses Created a Mobile App What Your Customers Want Your Mobile App to Do
Increase Sales
  • 40.4% of branded retail app users bought more of the store’s products and services (source)
  • One loyalty program member spends up to 13% more than two non-members(source)
  • 51% are more likely to buy something in-store if they receive a coupon on their mobile device while near a store (including 63% of 18-34 year-olds, 43% of 35+) (source)
Improve Customer Experience
  • Two of the top reasons customers use restaurant apps are: order food online (30%) and make a reservation (23.8%) (source)
  • Clients book appointments when it’s convenient for them, 35% scheduled when the business was closed (source)
Become Competitive in the Market
  • 64% of affluent app users say they view brands with mobile apps more favorably (source)
  • 60% of mobile coupon users say they will “gladly switch brands to use a coupon” (source)
  • Out of branded retail app users: 45.8% visited the store more often, 35.8% told a friend about their shopping experience, and 30.8% encouraged friends to visit the store (source)


Dear Small Business Owner,

Thank you for writing! We’re glad you’ve decided to move forward and we were thrilled to help you figure out what your mobile app should do.

Best of luck!

Small Business Trends


10 Seemingly Unrelated Lessons that Will Make You a Better Entrepreneur


Though few outside the community may understand this, entrepreneurship is not just about profit and risk. It’s also about endless curiosity and the willingness to try something new. The true entrepreneur won’t be able to resist exploring the lessons below. But while your curiosity might draw you in, what you’ll come away with is something more. Because these seemingly unrelated lessons from our small business community will also make you a better entrepreneur in the end.

Unlock the Secrets of the New Google Goals

Google recently released a new tool designed to help people set and achieve their personal and professional goals. And as Mike Gingerich points out in this post, you can actually use the tool to help create some work-life balance.

Determine Whether Humor is Best for Your Brand

Humor can be a useful business tool in certain situations — but not all. If you’re going to use humor in your marketing plan or any other part of your business, check out the tips in this Media Shower post by Tricia Edgar.

Discover These Must-Haves for Your eCommerce Website

Not all eCommerce sites get the best results. Those that don’t do well could be missing some essential elements like the ones included in this Lidyr Creative post by Nikki Purvy. BizSugar members also share thoughts on the post here.

Capture the Magic of Instagram Stories

Instagram recently released a new feature that’s similar to Snapchat. Instagram Stories can be a potentially valuable tool for businesses. But first, you need to know how to use it. Daniel Charlton of the Excel Visibility blog explains in this post.

Uncover Unique Ways of Sending Your Message

There are plenty of different ways to get messages across to consumers. You can show them visually through things like infographics. You can use storytelling methods. And there are plenty of other methods you can use, like the ones listed in this Causeview post by Doron Barbalat. Though the post is written for non-profits, there are some important takeaways that can apply to many different business types.

Embrace  “Martech” and Help Your Team Do the Same

Marketing technology can certainly be a benefit to businesses in many different ways. But some still struggle with embracing that technology. If you’re unsure how to embrace “martech” in your business,check out the tips in this Marketing Land post by Mary Wallace.

Master the Art of Facebook Marketing

Facebook can be another great tool for businesses to reach online consumers. But it’s not always easy. To get the best results possible with Facebook marketing, you should take these tips from Rieva Lesonsky on the CorpNet blog into account.

Explore the Concepts of Customer Delight

No matter what actual tools you use, your overall goal should be to delight your customers in some way. There are some basic concepts that you can use to create a sense of customer delight, as Ed Leake sharesin this FATbit post. You can also see discussion surrounding the post over on BizSugar.

Unravel the Secrets of Superhero Bloggers

Different businesses use blogging in different ways. But if you want to be successful in sharing your content and reaching your audience, you need at least a few of these blogging secrets that can turn you into a superstar blogger, according to Theodore Nwangene on Mostly Blogging.

Learn How Supercomputers Are Shaping the Future

The technology and tools that businesses use are constantly changing. So keeping up with those changes can be extremely beneficial. In this post on the Who Is Hosting This blog, KerriLynn Engel shares some thoughts and an infographic about how supercomputers are shaping the future of humanity.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: [email protected]