Small Business Snapshot PicoCluster

Small Business Snapshot: PicoCluster

Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Craig Brown, president and co-founder of PicoCluster, a business founded in 2015 that sells an educational computing platform for businesses, engineers and students, explains how this image represents his business.

Brown explains…

Pictured is the largest known Raspberry Pi 2 micro-computer cluster. We built it to demonstrate the scalability of our idea, and also for the shear coolness of it. It’s great to see people come up to see the cluster just smiling from ear to ear, even if they didn’t really understand what it is. The great thing is that it’s fully functional, not just a demo or mock up.

PicoCluster is an inexpensive, engaging, and easy to use educational platform designed to help businesses, engineers, and students learn distributed and parallel computing concepts, like those used in Big Data. One of the largest and hardest to solve problems in business right now is finding skilled engineers, particularly for newer and more advanced technologies. PicoCluster addresses this problem through the use of a 3-part platform combining hardware, software, and online

Want to Be a Better Negotiator? Get Emotional

Taking a cutthroat approach isn’t always the best way to get what you want when negotiating, new research finds.

Bringing emotion into negotiations often elicits compassion from the other party, making that person more likely to develop sympathy and, in turn, more willing to compromise and find creative solutions, finds a study set to be published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

“Sympathy is an emotion that corresponds with good will,” Laura Kray, one of the study’s authors and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, said in a statement. “In negotiations, it can translate into a willingness to problem-solve in ways that might not otherwise occur.”

The researchers discovered that this approach is more effective when instigated by the negotiator in the weaker position. They found that negotiators in the stronger position who tried to gain sympathy often came across as manipulative.

For the study, researchers randomly assigned 106 MBA students to negotiating teams to play out various scenarios. One scenario involved a disagreement between a building contractor and a real estate developer over payment. In the scenario, after originally approving a decision to use higher-quality materials, the developer

Small Business Snapshot: Highway Twenty

Small Business Snapshot: Highway Twenty

Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Carla Sandine, founder and president of Highway Twenty, a business founded in 2011 that provides digital marketing consulting and execution for nonprofits, explains how this image represents her business.

Sandine explains…

This is a photo from our open house, after we moved into our current space. It features pictures that we took and taped up during the party, and includes shots of staff and the many clients and supporters who came that evening. The party was a labor of love, and everyone in the team contributed time and creative ideas to make it unique.

The photo is representative of us in a few ways. First, its warmth and happy faces. Our office is welcoming and very diverse. We are different from many marketing agencies because of the experience of our staff and the fact that we are very culturally competent. Second, like those photos in the picture, we are made up of many exceptional individuals, and together, have an even stronger impact. This sounds corny, but it’s true — we’re

Garage Doors: Does It Matter What Type of Door You Use?

New homeowners may not realise the importance of a proper garage door. If the door must be removed, some question whether to put a new one on, as they are so used to parking outside. Garage doors can be costly, but not if you know where to look and what to look for. A primary benefit of roller shutter garage doors is that they are seamless and provide added protection to the items within your garage.

More importantly, roller shutter garage doors are a genius space saving feature that allows small homes to have all the same functions as a large home. Some garage doors use the outward swing method, which works for some, but isn’t practical for homes in neighbourhoods that are rather close to each other. The vertical hideaway and closing style allows the garage door to perform its functions while possessing less of a breakage risk.

The Type of Door You Use Matters

Not all homeowners have the luxury of a tonne of space for a driveway and garage. More importantly, there are specific reasons why the type of door matters beyond aesthetics, for functionality. Insulated roller shutter doors allow the

10 Regulatory Changes That Could Affect Your Business This Year

With another year, comes another set of laws and regulatory issues that businesses need to be aware of.

In 2016, many issues affecting the regulatory landscape revolve around employee pay. Changes to overtime rules and paid sick leave, as well as increased minimum wages are all issues businesses need to stay on top of this year, new research from Paychex found.

“Business owners have been inundated with proposed regulations that will affect how they pay employees in 2016,” Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO, said in a statement.

To help businesses deal with these changes, Paychex has identified nine regulatory issues that should be on small businesses’ radar in 2016:

  • Overtime regulations: In 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed new salary thresholds for white-collar workers. The proposal would raise the salary threshold from $455 a week to about $970 a week in 2016. After hearing input from the public on the proposed increases, the agency is expected to release its final ruling this spring. Employers will need to be prepared to take immediate action in order to comply when that ruling is unveiled.
  • Employee pay: Employers throughout the country will be adapting to minimum wage increases, as well as new laws on equal

5 Ways You’re Demotivating Your Employees

Unless they’re vying for the title of “World’s Worst Boss,” no leader wants to purposely make their staff feel discouraged and unmotivated. But if you’ve noticed a drop in employee engagement, take a close look at your own words and actions — you might be the reason for it.

“Leaders don’t always realize their behavior is demotivating staff members, because they aren’t engaged enough with employees to understand which behaviors work and which ones don’t,” said Vip Sandhir, founder and CEO of employee engagement platform HighGround. “Many leadership teams don’t understand the ongoing mood of a company.”

If you’re not taking the time to check in with your group, you may be inadvertently demotivating your employees. Here are a few key behaviors and tactics to avoid as a leader.

Do you allow certain employees (or yourself) privileges like flexible schedules, remote work options or access to company resources but withhold them from others? Do you chastise your staff for coming in late when you left early the day before? You may try to justify it by telling yourself that you or the “favored” employees work harder to earn those perks, but it’s unfair to set standards that you don’t

3 Key Things to Learn About Your Target Customer

If you’re starting a business, you’ve probably defined your “target customer.” You know their age, gender, location and perhaps even their income and education levels. But demographics alone won’t give you a complete picture of who’s buying your products.

“Understand intimately who your customer is,” said TJ Parker, CEO and founder of PillPack, an online pharmacy and medication management service. “If you don’t know your customers, it’s hard to … communicate [your product’s] benefits so they react positively.”

So what else should you be learning about your customers, aside from basic demographics? Here are the top three things you should find out, and how to incorporate that information into your strategy. [7 Proven Marketing Tactics for Acquiring Customers]

This is perhaps the single most important piece of the customer puzzle. No matter how well you’re projecting your customers’ values and interests, you ultimately won’t succeed if you don’t show that your product or service solves a problem for them.

For example, PillPack has succeeded because it has invested a lot of energy into understanding the hassles that people go through every day while trying to order, refill and manage their prescriptions via a traditional pharmacy, Parker noted.

“How do you build relationships with

Hiring in the Digital Age: What’s Next for Recruiting?

Ask any business about its top challenges for 2016 — the odds are good that recruiting and retaining talent are somewhere on that list. Smart companies know that they’re only as good as their best workers, and will prioritize seeking out the best of the best for their organizations.

As technology continues to evolve, it plays an increasingly important role in the way companies approach the talent search and the hiring process. Hiring managers and HR experts shared their thoughts on the future of recruiting and what’s on the horizon for this important area of business operations.
It’s all about digital

When LinkedIn and online job applications first began to gain traction, they were seen as supplements to the traditional paper résumé and in-person interview. Today, the world of recruiting has gone nearly 100-percent digital.

“From the résumé to the search to the interview, we’re moving toward a digital hiring model,” said Bob Myhal, director of digital marketing at CBC Advertising and former CEO of NextHire. “Résumés will be displaced by constantly evolving representations of individual experiences, skills and aptitudes that exist purely in the digital realm. Innovative tools that use social media, big data and other technologies to give tremendous insight into

Instagram for Business Everything You Need to Know

Instagram may seem like a place where only niche businesses like those in the fashion or food industries can succeed, but it’s definitely not a network you should rule out, as long as you know what you’re doing. Before you take on the visual world of Instagram, make sure you learn about the social network, what it does and how to make it work the best way for your brand.
What is Instagram?

Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing app and social network that was created in 2010 by founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. In 2012, Facebook purchased the service for $1 billion, and as of December 2014, Instagram had more than 300 million users, according to the service’s blog. And if you’re wondering about the name, “Instagram” is a portmanteau of the words “instant” (inspired by instant cameras) and “telegram” according to its FAQ page.

Unlike other social networks, Instagram is completely photo/video-centric, so users can edit and post mages and short videos (up to 15 seconds), but not text updates like they can on Twitter and Facebook, for example.
How does Instagram work?

Creating your account

Because Instagram is primarily a mobile app, you’ll have to download it to your mobile device

Is Your Business Social Enough? 4 Ways to Boost Engagement

Facebook page, Twitter handle and Instagram account? Check. Daily posts on each network? Check. A platform to monitor relevant hashtags, current events and industry trends? Check. If you have these things, your brand’s social media presence is off to a great start. But you might not have all your bases covered yet.

“Brands have caught on to the sheer power and reach of social,” said Andrew Caravella, vice president of marketing for social media management software Sprout Social. “According to the Q4 2015 Sprout Social Index, the number of messages sent by retail brands has risen 45 percent since the beginning of 2015. Yet they’re focusing too much of their energy on broadcasting instead of taking that crucial next step to engage in meaningful conversations.”

What do “meaningful conversations” entail? For starters, brands should be answering the numerous customer queries that come up on social media. The Sprout Social Index found that the number of messages consumers are posting to brands’ social pages is steadily increasing but that just 16 percent of those inbound messages were actually answered.

“In 2014, retail brands sent three times as many promotional messages as replies on social media,” Caravella said. “This preoccupation with broadcasting comes at

Inside Track: Building an Internal Talent Pipeline

Filling an open position at your company can be a lengthy and frustrating process. After you’ve narrowed down a few good prospects, which is an arduous task in itself, you still need to coordinate interviews, run background checks and negotiate salaries. Even then, your dream employee could still turn you down for another offer.

But what if the perfect candidate for the job has been sitting right under your nose the whole time? Moving or promoting an existing employee into a hard-to-fill opening could save you a few steps — and risks — in the hiring process.

“Internal hires are generally much lower-risk candidates,” said Adam Robinson, CEO of hiring software company Hireology. “Presumably, they are already a fit for the culture and understand the company’s core values, processes, customers and market. Further, management already knows who they are, how they work, their skills, etc.

“The hardest part of bringing in someone new is building trust, and once you have it, it’s there,” added Sara McManigal, vice president of talent at Emma, a provider of email marketing services. “[An internal hire] is not going to go off the reins and make a decision that will hurt the business.”

Hiring from within your company benefits

Samsung Notebook 9: Is It Good for Business?

Tired of toting around a hefty work laptop? Samsung’s ridiculously light Notebook 9 might be the answer for commuters and frequent travelers. The new 13-inch laptop weighs just 1.85 lbs., making it one of the lightest laptop computers we’ve ever seen.

Let’s put that into perspective. The 13-inch MacBook Air feels significantly heavier than the Notebook 9, weighing in at 3 lbs., and even the superportable Dell XPS 13 outweighs the Notebook 9 by nearly a full pound. Samsung’s laptop weighs about as much as two iPad Airs stuck together, which means it’s light enough to lift between two fingers with ease.

I was also quite impressed with the Notebook 9’s excellent keyboard. Despite its slim profile, the keys offer a generous 1.5 mm of travel and good feedback, which make for a really comfortable, satisfying typing experience. That’s not something many of you’ll often find on a notebook with these dimensions.

Other hardware highlights include processor options up to Intel’s 6th Generation Core i7 Processor with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of SSD storage. Samsung also showed off the machine’s flexible hinge, which opens up 180 degrees so you can tip the display back until it lies flat on a

5 Simple Scientific Ways to Be More Confident at Work

A little extra confidence can go a long way, especially in the workplace. Whether you’re trying to ace an interview for your dream job, land a promotion or give an important presentation, feeling empowered can make all the difference. So what do you do if you’re feeling down on yourself in the office? The good news is, there are plenty of easy tips and tricks you can use to help.

If you feel as though you’re in need of a self-esteem boost, try following these five simple, proven ways to be more confident at work.

You already know that music can affect your mood, but did you know that certain kinds of music can affect your self-esteem? A study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that different types of songs can affect your confidence.

Researchers played different songs for people and then had them rank how much each song made them feel powerful, dominant and determined. These songs were then split into two playlists, one “high-power” (the three highest-ranked songs) and one “low-power” (three songs that were similar in style, but ranked lower.) They then played one playlist for one group of people

The Best Tech Skills to List on Your Resume

It may be a job seeker’s market right now, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s easy to land a job. Competition among talented candidates is steep, so standing out can sometimes be difficult.

Those looking for a job in the tech field have the added challenge of keeping up with the industry’s ever-evolving demands. As trends emerge and technologies advance, it’s important to keep your skills sharp and up to date if you want to land a tech job.

Hiring managers, executives and tech experts shared the top tech skills employers are looking for on candidates’ résumés right now. [25 Hottest Job Skills on LinkedIn]

Even if “programmer” or “developer” isn’t in the job title, it is increasingly necessary for every startup team member to know his or her way around the website’s code, said Matt Ehrlichman, CEO and co-founder of Porch. Having some basic coding and programming chops under your belt will make you a much more attractive hire to prospective employers and may just be the differentiating factor that gets you hired, he said.

It’s also critical that people seeking tech jobs keep their knowledge up to date and continue adding to their skills, said Samantha Lambert, director of human resources

Good at Multi-Tasking? Don’t Put It On Your Resume

While you might think your ability to juggle several tasks at once is a valuable skill, it likely is only hurting your performance in the workplace, one business professor argues.

That’s why those looking for work should reconsider including “multitasking” as a skill on their résumé, according to Baylor University professor Anne Grinols.

“Employers are more interested in outcomes than efforts,” Grinols said in a statement. “Multitasking refers to the latter.”

After conducting research on multitasking, Grinols uncovered several myths about the “skill” that make employees think it is providing more benefit than it really is. The three myths are:

1. Employees believe they can focus on two mental activities at once. Grinols said there is both conscious and unconscious accomplishment of assignments. The unconscious happens when you have completed a task over and over again and you tend to go on “autopilot” while working on it. You don’t give it the same proactive attention as it might deserve.

On the other side is conscious mental activity, which happens one task at a time. For example, if you are texting during a meeting, you likely won’t hear and pick up on everything being discussed.

Grinols said the problem is that when employees go back and forth

Twitter for Business Everything You Need to Know

Twitter may seem simple, but using it — especially for brands and businesses — requires a lot more effort than just sharing a link and throwing in a hashtag or two. If you want to be a tactful tweeter, make sure you first know how the platform works.
What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social networking platform through which users can share short messages (under 140 characters each) also known as “tweets” with the rest of the Internet. The platform, which was created and launched in 2006 by founders Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass, is Web-based and has a mobile app in addition to its own native platform, Tweetdeck, which is available on the Web and on mobile devices as well.

Twitter now has more than 320 million monthly active users, according to the company. Twitter is one of the top 10 websites in the United States and is currently ranked No. 10 globally, according to Internet analytics company Alexa.
How does it work?

To use Twitter, first you have to sign up for a profile. While unregistered users can visit your profile (so long as it’s public), only registered users can share tweets and interact with other users.

Best Business Tablets (and Why We Love Them)

What do you need in your next business tablet? Whether it’s powerful performance, stylus support or just something affordable, there’s a great work slate for you. Here are our top picks for 2016.

[For more information on how we test mobile devices, visit our testing methodology page.]
Best Overall Business Tablet

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Operating system: Windows 10

With a supersharp 12.3-inch display, a handy kickstand and extremely powerful performance (check the chart below), the Surface Pro 4 is a work tablet that’s hard to beat. It runs on the full desktop version of Windows 10, which means it can transform into a full workstation if you hook it up to a larger monitor at the office. It’s also compatible with some great accessories, including the Type Cover keyboard and the Surface Pen, which lets you write directly on the display.

Key Features:

Digitizer stylus (Included)
Keyboard (sold separately)
Desktop dock (sold separately)
USB port
SD card slot
Mini DisplayPort

Click here for a full review of the Surface Pro 4 on our sister site Laptop Mag.
BUY Microsoft Surface 4 >>>
Best iPad for Business

Apple iPad Air 2

Operating system: iOS 8

Great apps and top-tier hardware make the iPad Air 2 one of the best

Texting Your Customers 3 Tips for Mobile Marketing Success

Text messaging has become the great communication equalizer. Anyone with a mobile phone — smart device or not — has access to texting, and people use it to talk with everyone from friends and family to co-workers and professional contacts.

In recent years, one more group has been added to people’s extended texting networks: brands. At first, consumers were hesitant to open up their text message inbox to marketing messages — a 2012 survey by the U.K. Direct Marketing Association and Velti found that only 33 percent of Americans preferred to receive mobile offers by text message, and another 50 percent preferred not to receive mobile offers at all. But attitudes have shifted in the past few years, and consumers are becoming more open to receiving relevant, personalized marketing text messages. In fact, according to a 2014 Hipcricket survey, 41 percent of U.S. consumers said they’d share more information with brands via mobile if it meant they’d receive relevant offers.

“The increase in text messaging as a marketing channel is undoubtedly a result of the exponential growth in mobile users,” said Yoni Ben-Yehuda, chief marketing officer of Web design firm Blue Fountain Media. “Most users are attached to their mobile phones and

Pinterest for Business Everything You Need to Know

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are often go-tos for businesses and brands, but many companies can also benefit from the visual aspects of a platform like Pinterest. Ready to take on one of the most pin-teresting social networks out there? Here’s everything you need to know before you sign up.
What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a platform that allows users to share and save content to virtual collections called pinboards (also referred to as simply “boards”). The social network has both a website and a mobile app, and was launched in 2010 by co-founders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra. Initially, the website was available only in a closed beta model, and users could join only by invitation until August 2012, when Pinterest opened to the public.

The platform has a unique demographic in that the vast majority of its more than 100 million active users (according to Venture Beat) are female. A comScore study found that approximately 71 percent of Pinterest users in December 2014 were women, according to The Wall Street Journal.

While you can find just about anything on the Web on Pinterest — the website’s categories include everything from art to technology, Pinterest is known as a

FreshBooks Review Best Accounting Mobile App for Business

We recommend FreshBooks for iOS and Android as the best accounting mobile app for small businesses. We chose FreshBooks from dozens of accounting software options. To understand how we chose FreshBooks, you can find our methodology and a list of accounting software vendors on our best picks page.
Why FreshBooks?
Best value

Just because a software goes mobile doesn’t mean it has to compromise on the features business owners need the most. Although the majority of accounting software products have mobile apps, what makes FreshBooks stand out is that it offers a comprehensive set of time-saving accounting tools — without breaking the bank.

FreshBooks offers some of the most competitive pricing models for accounting software, making it an affordable option for small businesses. The sales representative we spoke with confirmed that the mobile app is free to download, though you’ll have to purchase a FreshBooks subscription to use it for your business. There is no separate plan just for mobile accounting, however. Pricing to use the app is included in the monthly subscription, which gives you access to both the software and the mobile app under one monthly fee.

FreshBooks describes itself as a “simple and intuitive” cloud-based accounting

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