2020 Small Business Economic Outlook

2020 Small Business Economic Outlook

On the heels of a strong holiday season, small business owners should be feeling quite optimistic as we roll into 2020. The American economy was gifted with reduced economic uncertainty, capping off what has been – while not spectacular – a very solid year of economic growth.

At this point last year, and throughout the majority of this year, most economic analysts out there were predicting a recession of the US economy. No one could believe that the current economic expansion could possibly continue into a record 11th year


New EU Tariffs the Trump Administration is Set to Impose

The World Trade Organization (WTO) just opened the door for new U.S. tariffs against the European Union starting October 18th. The recent decision by the WTO ruled in the favor of the United States in their 15 year long battle against subsidies the EU provides to airplane maker Airbus.

In addition to airplanes, the office of the United States Trade Representative released a list of items imported from Europe that will now be subject to tariffs. Included among those items are electromechanical tools, backhoes, wool sweaters, coffees, olives, cheese, and many liquors.


Relax, Relate, Release: Stress Awareness Month

In case you haven’t noticed, we sure love a reason to celebrate. Every month in the calendar is filled with real (and made up) holidays and observances that promote various causes and special interests. Some were even created specifically to support businesses. April is the national month for more than fifty causes and special interests. These observances offer something for everyone, ranging from Autism, American Cancer Society, and Women’s Health Care to Amateur Radio, Fresh Florida Tomato, and Pets are Wonderful. For more information on April causes or to view other observances for the coming months, visit sites such as National Day Calendar and Holiday Insights.

One observance in the month of April that resonated with us is Stress Awareness Month. Let’s face it: we are overworked, overscheduled and on sensory overload with smart devices integrated into every aspect of our lives. Stress can build up over time and have adverse effects on our health: heart disease, depression and a weakened immune system which can open our bodies up to other diseases. This month, health care professionals nationally and internationally are joining forces to increase public awareness about the causes of stress and arm us with methods of coping with our modern stress epidemic. Here are some tips from The Mayo Clinic on ways we can manage or relieve the stress in our lives:

  • Get Active: Even if you're not an athlete or you're out of shape, exercise can still be a good stress reliever. Physical activity can pump up your feel-good endorphins and other natural neural chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being. Exercise can also refocus your mind on your body's movements, which can improve your mood and help the day's irritations fade away. Consider walking, jogging, gardening, housecleaning, biking, swimming, weightlifting or anything else that gets you active.
  • Connect with Others: Social contact is a good stress reliever because it can offer distraction, provide support and help you tolerate life's up and downs. Take a coffee break with a friend, email a relative or visit your place of worship. Got more time? Consider volunteering for a charitable group and help yourself while helping others.
  • Assert Yourself: Learning to say no or being willing to delegate can help you manage your to-do list and your stress. Saying yes may seem like an easy way to keep the peace, prevent conflicts and get the job done right. But it may actually cause you internal conflict because your needs and those of your family come second, which can lead to stress, anger, resentment and even the desire to exact revenge. And that's not a very calm and peaceful reaction.
  • Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is the time when your brain and body recharge. Stress can cause you to have trouble falling asleep. If you have sleep troubles, make sure that you have a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine, listen to soothing music, put clocks away, and stick to a consistent schedule.
  • Seek Counseling: If new stressors are challenging your ability to cope or if self-care measures just aren't relieving your stress, you may need to look for reinforcements in the form of therapy or counseling. Therapy also may be a good idea if you feel overwhelmed or trapped, if you worry excessively, or if you have trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school. Professional counselors or therapists can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.

Stress is a part of our everyday life. On the positive side, it can spur us to work harder and be successful. However, stress can also have debilitating effects on our lives if we do not recognize how it is impacting us and properly manage it. Lou Holtz stated, “it’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it”. This month let us take inventory, be mindful of our loads, and make adjustments to find the needed balance in our lives. Let’s take time to relax, relate and release.

Portrait of a group of business people laughing against white ba

Laugh at Work Week

Laughter, like yawning, can be contagious. It is the best (free) medicine on the market. Yet oftentimes we as adults do not get enough does of it in our lives. There is an urban myth that states children laugh 300-400 times a day while adults only laugh 15-20 times a day. We get it: we have a lot of responsibilities, there’s work to be done and everyone is relying on us. But losing our funny bone does not make us more productive, creative or help us cope better with life. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Well, the good news is today is another day to infuse more laughter into our lives AND it just happens to be the start of Laugh at Work Week!

Laugh at Work Week is observed internationally every first week of April. As the name suggests, this week is dedicated to having fun and making the workplace more enjoyable. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, the average American spends more hours at work or commuting to work than they do at home. There is noted business value in adding humor and laughter into your office: it creates camaraderie among the team, leading to better communication and collaboration, it increases creativity, and it reduces stress in the office, which can lead to lower incidences of absenteeism.  A team that laughs and plays together will succeed together. Here are some ways to introduce or encourage laughter, humor, and fun in your office this week:

  • Keep it appropriate and professional. First, let’s get this necessary reminder out of the way. As you are having fun, be sure to stay away from potential HR minefields. Humor is meant to be light fun done in jest to entertain everyone and lift spirits. Avoid mean-spirited or derogatory jokes that can hurt feelings and kill morale, or even worse – lead to litigation.
  • Create a “Fun Team”. Select a few employees to form a team to take on the task of developing initiatives to bring humor and fun into your workplace. Ensure that this team properly represents your workforce so that all groups or departments are represented. The team will need support from management to carry out the activities that they come up with.
  • Have Fun Challenges. Basketball contest, whacky socks, karaoke, best imitation of the boss, paper airplanes, etc. The sky is the limit when it comes to activities that you can do with your team. Most folks love a little friendly competition.
  • Bring in the Entertainment. Hire a local act to come to perform for your team during lunch. Depending on their interests, you can find local bands, magicians, cartoonists, dancers, etc. Use the entertainment to set a festive, party-like atmosphere in the office. This could work great on Wednesday (Hump Day) or on Friday to close out the week.
  • Distribute Gifts. Everyone loves presents! You do not have to break the bank to find fun(ny) gifts and trinkets for your team. Companies such as Positive Promotions, Baudville, and Oriental Trading offer items to fit every budget. Consider items that your employees can enjoy at their desks and at home such as playing cards, puzzles, desktop games, balls, etc.

While Laugh at Work Week is only observed during the first week of April, hopefully, these will not be the only days that laugher and fun find their way into your offices. Happy laughing!!


Inclusion: Going Beyond Diversity

Diversity and Inclusion. These buzz words have been pushed to the forefront of headlines with movements such as #MeToo and the growing focus on the overall makeup of the organization. Diversity can take many forms: racial, gender, sexual, religious, physical ability, etc. It can even involve varying education and work experience levels. Often diversity and inclusion are used interchangeably but in reality, they are two separate ideas. While having a diverse talent pool of employees is admirable, it does not make a difference unless the organization also has a policy of inclusiveness where employees feel supported, appreciated and welcomed to go with it.

Retain Employees

Retaining Top Talent for Your Organization

$1 Trillion. According to a recent Gallup article, U.S. businesses are losing a trillion dollars a year due to voluntary employee turnover. The March 2019 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported the total number of separations in 2018 was 66.1 million. 61% (40.1 million) of those separations were quits/voluntary turnover. On the conservative side, the estimated cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary. For example, a 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year! Aside from the cost of training a new employee, losing strong employees can reduce workplace morale, break key customer relationships, and even affect your brand if it was the result of a tumultuous relationship.

Separating Finances

Separating Your Personal and Business Finances

Most startups are financed with the personal funds of their owners. This practice is often the most direct approach to kickstarting their dreams if they are unable to qualify for traditional financing or secure alternative funding. However, as the business grows, small business owners should strive to separate their personal and business finances. Doing this necessary step can prove to be beneficial in several ways. It provides a clear separation for your finances, makes the business look official and professional when dealing with customers and vendors, and it can reduce the likelihood of an IRS audit or having deductions denied by the IRS.

Crisis Management

Crisis Management and Your Business

Questionable ethics, accounting manipulations, environmental abuse, sexual harassment allegations, tax evasion, human rights violations, etc. These are just a few of the issues that have created public relations nightmares for companies around the world in recent years. When news of the scandal first breaks, the public expresses outrage, and the media dissect every detail of the story. As more and more information comes to light, the company will see their reputation take a hit, sales drop and they become persona non grata with even their previously most trusted allies. Usually, in response the company first goes on the defense (denial, lashing out, etc.) then offers an apology with promises to make amends and do better.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Financing for Small Business

Whether you are just starting out or are a veteran in the small business game, you may require financing for your small business. During the life cycle of a business, there are four key reasons why you may inquire about your financing options: to start the business, expand the business, purchase inventory or strengthen the business’ financial position. Luckily for us, now more than ever, we have a variety of funding sources available besides traditional large banks lenders. Some alternative financing options include venture capitalists, crowdfunding, grants, merchant cash advances, and loans or grants from the Small Business Association.


Development Opportunity for Leaders

As leaders, we often encourage our employees to continue their education, learn new skills and streamline processes to improve efficiencies. We’re often so busy managing and leading that we do not take time out to practice what we preach. Just as our employees need help in strengthening their skills and developing new ones, so do we. Well, there is no time like the present to get the refresher or additional training that we need. And the Small Business Administration has just the program for us: The Emerging Leaders Initiative.

Call to Action

International Women’s Day: A Call to Action

As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8th, we have many reasons to celebrate: more women were elected to Congress during the recent elections cycle than ever before, women are outpacing men in obtaining advanced degrees, female activism is on the rise worldwide, and women own 36% of all businesses, contributing more than $3 trillion to the economy. Despite the strides made, we still have a lot of work to do. When we look at the overall statistics of women in the workplace, the numbers tell a sobering truth:


International Women’s Day: Running the World

These opening lyrics were made famous by Beyoncé in her song, Run the World (Girls). Part defiant, part inspirational, this song is often the battle cry of women worldwide. And as we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday, March 8th, we take these words to heart. Celebrated for over a century, International Women’s Day is a global day to highlight the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Some will mark this day celebrating women and the strides we have made. Others will mark this day in protest for how far we still have to go towards achieving gender equality.


Ways to Observe Employee Appreciation Day

It is T-minus two days until Employee Appreciation Day. Are you ready…? As we noted in our previous post, it is important that we implement a recognition program to thank and acknowledge employees for their hard work that contributes to our business’ success. Employees want recognition, verbal appreciation, and encouragement. Whether you have one employee or one thousand employees, showing your appreciation will go a long way. Employees who feel appreciated and valued are more productive, have fewer incidents of absenteeism, and have better interactions with customers.


President Trump to Delay Next Round of Tariff Increases on China

President Trump sent out a tweet late Friday afternoon announcing that he would delay the next round of tariffs against China that had been set to go in effect on March 2nd. He expressed optimism that the trade talks would yield a resolution on the many structural issues at stake, culminating with a summit at Mar-a-Lago between President Xi and himself to conclude an agreement.


Employee Appreciation Day: More than a Holiday

On Friday, March 1st, we will be observing a holiday that should be on every organization’s radar: Employee Appreciation Day. Celebrated annually every first Friday of March, Employee Appreciation Day was established in 1995 by Dr. Bob Nelson, considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on employee motivation, performance, engagement, recognition, and rewards. This day was created for leaders and management to say “thank you” to their employees for their hard work that contributes to the organization’s success day in and day out.

Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying Awareness

No one likes a bully. It seems that incidents of bullying, both in person and online, are being reported with greater frequency than before, often with tragic results. On February 22nd we will be observing International Stand-Up to Bullying Day. This is a bi-annual event (will also be observed November 29th) in which participants across twenty-five countries wear pink and sign a pledge to take a public stance against bullying and to support bullying victims. As supporters use International Stand-Up to Bullying Day to create actionable plans to identify, prevent and end bullying, we should also use the day to address another bullying that is not often spoken about – workplace bullying.


Understanding Current Economic Conditions & Positioning For The Rest Of 2019

How is that possible? As history has shown us, global economic uncertainty leads to global investors shifting their money to safer U.S. assets which drives up the value of the dollar since dollars are needed (think supply vs demand) to purchase these assets. This is depicted by the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), which tracks the strength of the dollar against a basket of major currencies. The dollar has held its strength and reamined near the peak its 52-week high. U.S. Dollar Index goes up when the U.S. dollar gains "strength" (value), compared to other currencies. In particular, it has gained 7% against the Euro since it began its ascent last April, and nearly 10% against the Chinese Yuan over the same period.


Presidents’ Day: Lessons in Leadership

Today we observe Presidents’ Day. It was originally started in the 1880s to commemorate the birth of our nation’s first president, George Washington, on his actual birthday, February 22nd. This federal and state holiday has gone through some changes over the years: being combined with Lincoln’s birthday for a hybrid observation and ultimately being moved to the third Monday of February under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968. The law amended certain holidays to be celebrated on a Monday to allow federal employees more three-day weekends. The bill went into effect in 1971 and then-President Nixon encouraged Americans to observe this day as a “holiday set aside to honor all presidents, even myself.” Today, many of us enjoy this as a three-day holiday weekend by participating in local patriotic parades and reenactments, doing community service, sleeping in or taking advantage of the various sales offered by retailers.

Knowledge Transfer Concept

Benefits of a Business Mentor

There’s no way around it: running a small business and being responsible for the livelihood of the wonderful souls who joined you for the journey can be exhausting, stressful and overwhelming. Even if your business is performing well, oftentimes being an owner or leader can be a lonely title. So, where do you go to bounce ideas, strategize or decompress? Networking can help a little but for a true confidante, if you haven’t already done so, you should get a mentor. A mentor is someone who can provide guidance and be a sounding board for you based on the knowledge and experiences that he or she has accumulated.

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