In the News – Cities Cracking Down on Cashless Businesses

cashless business

We’re reporting all the time on advancements in payment technology that allow your business to take multiple forms of payment.

Some businesses are going a little further and not accepting cash at all. The totally cashless business, however, is becoming a bit of problem.

And this week, we learned that several cities across the US are making it illegal for a business to go cashless.

It’s something to think about as you consider upgrading your own company’s point of sales system and payment options.

This is just one of the many things making headlines that small business owners shouldn’t miss this week.

Check out the rest in this week’s small business news and information roundup.

Small Business News

Web.com Has a New DIY Website Builder

Web.com, providers of domain name registration and web development services, has announced the launch of an easy-to-use DIY website builder. The new website builder enables businesses to create well-designed and impactful websites and online stores with ease, affordability and without delay. The website builder is available to all new customers of the Web.

Most Americans Don’t Take a Break During the Holidays

Americans work more, take fewer vacations, work longer days and retire later than most industrialized nations. According to a new survey from Reservations.com, more than 1 in 4 or 27% of Americans didn’t take a day off during the 2019 holidays. The result from this survey is almost the same as the poll Small Business Trends carried out in December 2019.

60% of Americans Worry About Contracting Flu, So Keep Your Business Clean

For small businesses, the flu season can be especially crippling. Imagine your small company has five employees and two or more of them call in sick because of the flu. The impact is going to be immediate. So, the fact 60% of Americans say they worry about contracting the flu, highlights the problem. This data comes from Bradley’s 2020 Healthy Hand Washing Survey.

Some Californians are Fighting AB5

The gig economy has upended the way people work, and policymakers are grappling on how to address this change. California is tackling the issue with Assembly Bill 5 or as it is commonly known AB5. However, not all is going according to plan because US District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego has temporarily blocked AB5.

Small Businesses Selling on Amazon Seeing Big Revenue Growth

If you are searching for new avenues to grow the sales for your small business, you should consider selling on Amazon. According to the new research from Internet Data Corporation (IDC), small business owners are 2.5 times more likely to have registered 25% or more growth in the past year than those not selling in Amazon stores.

Taxes

Everything You Need to Know About the Standard Deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act just about doubled the standard deduction amounts for individuals for 2018 through 2025. As a result, the law eliminated or curtailed various itemized deductions. Today, most individuals (the Tax Foundation estimates 90%) choose the standard deduction instead of itemizing personal deductions. You have to decide which option is better for your situation.

10 Resources Where Small Businesses Can Get Free Help With Taxes from a Real Live Person

Tax season can be stressful for small business owners. There’s all the receipts you need to get together and that’s usually just a slice of the other invoices, documents and data that needs to be corralled and made sense of. Sometimes you just need to talk with someone who knows where a piece or two fits into the bigger puzzle.

Technology Trends

Veriato Vision Helps Small Businesses Monitor Employee Productivity

Research suggests the average employee is productive just 2 hours and 54 minutes in an 8 hour day. And that’s not all! Some employees may even be engaging in activities that will seriously harm your business — like fraud and embezzlement. As a small business owner, you know employee productivity ultimately determines your company’s success.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "In the News – Cities Cracking Down on Cashless Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends



RSS Business Feeds

In the News – Cities Cracking Down on Cashless Businesses

cashless business

We’re reporting all the time on advancements in payment technology that allow your business to take multiple forms of payment.

Some businesses are going a little further and not accepting cash at all. The totally cashless business, however, is becoming a bit of problem.

And this week, we learned that several cities across the US are making it illegal for a business to go cashless.

It’s something to think about as you consider upgrading your own company’s point of sales system and payment options.

This is just one of the many things making headlines that small business owners shouldn’t miss this week.

Check out the rest in this week’s small business news and information roundup.

Small Business News

Web.com Has a New DIY Website Builder

Web.com, providers of domain name registration and web development services, has announced the launch of an easy-to-use DIY website builder. The new website builder enables businesses to create well-designed and impactful websites and online stores with ease, affordability and without delay. The website builder is available to all new customers of the Web.

Most Americans Don’t Take a Break During the Holidays

Americans work more, take fewer vacations, work longer days and retire later than most industrialized nations. According to a new survey from Reservations.com, more than 1 in 4 or 27% of Americans didn’t take a day off during the 2019 holidays. The result from this survey is almost the same as the poll Small Business Trends carried out in December 2019.

60% of Americans Worry About Contracting Flu, So Keep Your Business Clean

For small businesses, the flu season can be especially crippling. Imagine your small company has five employees and two or more of them call in sick because of the flu. The impact is going to be immediate. So, the fact 60% of Americans say they worry about contracting the flu, highlights the problem. This data comes from Bradley’s 2020 Healthy Hand Washing Survey.

Some Californians are Fighting AB5

The gig economy has upended the way people work, and policymakers are grappling on how to address this change. California is tackling the issue with Assembly Bill 5 or as it is commonly known AB5. However, not all is going according to plan because US District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego has temporarily blocked AB5.

Small Businesses Selling on Amazon Seeing Big Revenue Growth

If you are searching for new avenues to grow the sales for your small business, you should consider selling on Amazon. According to the new research from Internet Data Corporation (IDC), small business owners are 2.5 times more likely to have registered 25% or more growth in the past year than those not selling in Amazon stores.

Taxes

Everything You Need to Know About the Standard Deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act just about doubled the standard deduction amounts for individuals for 2018 through 2025. As a result, the law eliminated or curtailed various itemized deductions. Today, most individuals (the Tax Foundation estimates 90%) choose the standard deduction instead of itemizing personal deductions. You have to decide which option is better for your situation.

10 Resources Where Small Businesses Can Get Free Help With Taxes from a Real Live Person

Tax season can be stressful for small business owners. There’s all the receipts you need to get together and that’s usually just a slice of the other invoices, documents and data that needs to be corralled and made sense of. Sometimes you just need to talk with someone who knows where a piece or two fits into the bigger puzzle.

Technology Trends

Veriato Vision Helps Small Businesses Monitor Employee Productivity

Research suggests the average employee is productive just 2 hours and 54 minutes in an 8 hour day. And that’s not all! Some employees may even be engaging in activities that will seriously harm your business — like fraud and embezzlement. As a small business owner, you know employee productivity ultimately determines your company’s success.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "In the News – Cities Cracking Down on Cashless Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

Experts join J-PAL North America in advancing conversation on the work of the future

On Jan. 14, J-PAL North America’s Work of the Future Initiative hosted an afternoon of conversation on how to address the changing nature of work while advancing equity and opportunity. The event, entitled Building A Future That Works For All, was attended by 35 leaders from nonprofits, academia, government, philanthropy, and advocacy organizations. 

“The assumption that we can solve these problems without workers in the conversation is one that we need to leave behind,” said Ai-jen Poo, co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, as she kicked off the first panel of the day. This theme was echoed throughout the day’s conversations, which were hosted by the Gerri and Rich Wong family at the Accel office in Palo Alto, California. Rich Wong is an alumnus of MIT engineering and the MIT Sloan School of Management. 

The event sought to continue J-PAL North America and the Work of the Future Initiative’s efforts to shift the conversations surrounding the future of work to focus on working people and collaborative research partnerships. As J-PAL North America Executive Director Mary Ann Bates stated in her introductory remarks: “We’re here to talk about the work of the future, which is about many big ideas — automation, artificial intelligence, and more — but we care about this work because of the people.” 

J-PAL North America launched the Work of the Future Initiative in April 2019 to identify effective, evidence-based strategies to increase opportunities, reduce disparities, and help all workers navigate and thrive in the labor markets of the future. 

Research partnerships are vital to generating the rigorous evidence necessary to identify these effective strategies. The recent event’s conversations sought to provide attendees with a chance to forge new partnerships and discuss innovative ideas for new programs and evaluations. 

The first panel discussed the role of rigorous research to inform worker-centered policies. Ai-jen Poo focused her discussion on the care sector — a workforce that will grow at five times the rate of any other sector in the coming years. Specifically, Poo noted the creative and innovative measures that the National Domestic Workers Alliance is taking to ensure that care work is dignified and that domestic workers are protected, including turning to technology: “What we’re trying to do is deploy technology to solve for dignity and equity.” 

Harvard professor and J-PAL North America Co-Scientific Director Lawrence Katz followed Poo’s remarks by discussing the growing divergence between real wages and worker productivity. Katz cited rising inequality as a primary driver of the decline in upward mobility and the stagnation of wages; more so than slow economic growth. 

Lastly, Aneesh Raman, senior advisor to California Governor Gavin Newsom, closed the conversation with a discussion on why collaboration across sectors and a willingness to innovate is crucial to progress: “We live in a world where politicians have very little opportunity to fail, which makes it very hard to innovate. We need to create a shared ownership of risk. Philanthropy, government, the private sector, and the nonprofit community need to come together to innovate and make a difference.” 

Other highlights of the day included a discussion of an ongoing research partnership between MIT Professor and Work of the Future Initiative Co-Chair David Autor, Rutgers University professor and J-PAL-affiliated researcher Amanda Agan, and Irene Liu and Jen Yeh of Checkr

Checkr is a selected partner through the Work of the Future Initiative’s inaugural innovation competition. The company partnered with Autor and Agan to evaluate whether their Positive Adjudication Matrix (PAM) can reduce bias in the background-check and hiring process. PAM allows employers to deem certain types of offenses irrelevant to the roles for which they’re hiring. Companies can then choose to either filter out or de-emphasize these criminal records. 

The candid conversation addressed the challenging aspects of partnering to design an evaluation and discussed what conditions must hold for more productive research partnerships to form in the future. Autor discussed the need for a champion within a partner organization, stating, “Data is threatening in the sense that it can produce results that you’re not looking for. You need a champion within your organization to move this forward.” 

The Checkr team expressed their hope that the evaluation of their product can inform policy decisions in the future: “There are states that have laws dictating who can and cannot apply to these companies. If we have evidence there, that can be really helpful.”

Other panelists, such as Katy Hamilton of the Center for Work Education and Employment and Jukay Hsu of Pursuit, run organizations that provide direct support to workers seeking quality jobs. Hamilton and Hsu discussed the programs that they hope to evaluate and turned to the audience for advice and constructive questions to inform their evaluation design processes. 

To wrap up the day, representatives from academia, philanthropy, the private sector, and government offered a call to action to other leaders within their sectors. Themes included centering workers’ voices and collaborating across sectors.  

Katy Knight of the Siegel Family Endowment discussed the steps that philanthropic organizations should take to promote people-centered practices: “We need to bring other people into the conversation and listen to their personal expertise to make sure we really understand the work we’re doing.” Mark Gorenberg of Zetta Venture Partners echoed these statements, stressing the private sector’s obligation to invest responsibly in programs that promote dignity. 

José Cisneros, elected treasurer for the City and County of San Francisco, discussed how collaboration is crucial for innovation: “The government is ready to be creative and work in partnership with philanthropy and the private sector to see if we can do things differently.” Columbia University professor and J-PAL-affiliated researcher Peter Bergman advocated for a similar type of collaboration within the academic community, calling for larger and more diverse research teams to conduct both quantitative and qualitative analyses of programs. 

The Work of the Future Initiative will continue to shape the dialogue surrounding the future of work by bringing together leaders and innovators across sectors to engage in conversations and research partnerships that center worker voices and concerns. By generating research on strategies to help workers thrive in today’s labor market, the initiative seeks to shape a more equitable future of work.



RSS Business Feeds

Sridhar Vembu of Zoho: The Cloud Should Have a Deeper Purpose, But Surveilling Data Isn’t It

Well I know we’re into a new year now, because my first conference of 2020 just ended.  Zoho’s annual analyst event took place in Austin, Texas this week and as in year’s past I had a chance to sit down with CEO and co-founder Sridhar Vembu for a wide-ranging conversation.  And quite literally we had a fireside chat.. while in rocking chairs.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation, where Vembu shares his thoughts on how the company has developed over the past five years, how it is positioning itself as a technology company and not just a software company, why he feels the cloud should help provide dignity and opportunity to rural communities, and why Zoho is taking a hard stance against the industry practice of “surveilling” customer data.  To hear the full conversation watch the video or click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.

The Cloud Should Have a Deeper Purpose, But Surveilling Customer Data Isn’t It

Small Business Trends: When you think about the last five years, what has that meant to Zoho the company?

Sridhar Vembu: We’ve seen tremendous growth. I think we showed, say over six, seven years,  almost 10 fold growth we have seen. And that I think is continuing now; the growth rate is still accelerating now. Now we now have an ability to tell the story as well as we are able to engineer the product. We’ve been a good company, but we were not able to tell the story before. Now, I think these events have helped us refine our messaging, help tell the story and connect with people.

Small Business Trends: So what is the big part of the story that may have been missing a couple of years ago that you can now tell and feel good about?

Sridhar Vembu: I think a lot of it is our culture as a company, how unique it is, how differentiated it is. I mean, we’re shy talking about ourselves as a company.

Small Business Trends: I’m going to say you are very shy …

Sridhar Vembu: Always, always been true. You know my attitude, build a great product, throw it over the fence, people would buy it if they want it. That was the attitude. These things have helped us realize there’s more to it than that. Because ultimately, every engineer has to learn this. Computers don’t buy products people do. And people have a reason, need a reason to buy it.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: They have to feel a connection with who is supplying technology to them. It’s not just only the technology, it’s also the connection, human connection. That’s the biggest thing that has changed in the last five years.

Small Business Trends: Now your evangelist, Raju Vegesna, he said a little earlier today that Zoho is not just a software company. It’s a technology company. Talk about that, what does that mean?

Sridhar Vembu: What Raju means is that this is a company that goes deep down into every aspect of what we do. And that is the depth of technology in terms of the software itself, the hardware underlying it, the networks that are powering or the data centers; all of it.  Also, in a deeper way, for example, we talked about construction, we talked about education, we talked about healthcare. So we think holistically about all these problems, not fragmented pieces, but we think holistically how are we going to get employees, train employees. How do our facilities look and how do they provide a nice home for employees. So these all of these aspects we think about.

Small Business Trends: You always come up with very good phrases. The last time we talked you talked about, how the capital is within the culture of the organization and not the finances.

Sridhar Vembu: Exactly.

Small Business Trends: And that really resonated with not only me but a lot of people. But this year you talked about how you don’t want to be … I want to make sure I get the phrase right. You don’t want to be a cost –

Sridhar Vembu: Costly input to our customers.

Small Business Trends: Costly input to your customers.

Sridhar Vembu: Yes.

Small Business Trends: Talk about what that means?

Sridhar Vembu: This actually came from my observation of the farm problem. The farmer problem, farmers face a problem where their inputs are getting costlier and costlier while the output is getting commoditized. So they’re literally squeezed. In fact, a lot of them have negative margin in their business now more and more, which is why the farm bankruptcies, a lot of the crises, rural crisis, agrarian crisis, which is pretty much worldwide. This is in the US, this is an India everywhere it’s happening.

I spent time in rural India and so I was able to observe these things first hand. Then I realized for a lot of businesses technology is a critical cost and we don’t want to be a costly input to our customers, because then our customers cannot survive in business very long term if they have very costly inputs from us. And so the only way to be sustainable, this relationship to be sustainable is we become an affordable input to them. This provides a nice framework to think about our business, how we structured ourselves. I talked about deep technology that is driven by the fact that we have to avoid costly inputs ourselves so that we don’t become a costly input to our customer.

Small Business Trends: So the other thing that really resonated is not only that you don’t want to be a costly input to your customers, but you want the cloud to be more than some great technology. You want it to – and I never heard anybody talk about it like this –  you want the cloud  to provide dignity.

Sridhar Vembu: Yeah.

Small Business Trends: And give more opportunity.

Sridhar Vembu: Correct.

Small Business Trends: Talk about that a little bit.

Sridhar Vembu: Today with technology we are able to work from anywhere. We just spoke before you said you work from home?

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: From Atlanta, in suburb of Atlanta, right? I actually worked for now mostly from rural India now and Raju works in Austin. And yet we are all connected now. I talked to Raju from rural India at least once a week and on video a couple of times a week.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: That’s what technology has enabled now. And this actually has startling implications for where the jobs are to be and what the incomes can be and the identity of people. In other words, if someone is a rural citizen and they have skills now they can actually have a job that pays a meaningful wage, that affords them a dignified life and they’re also be … could be change leaders in their communities. And all of this is possible today that was never before possible.

So to me, the cloud has a broader purpose, a bigger purpose. The cloud is not a delivery channel for software, cloud has a bigger purpose. It enables us to work from anywhere and that liberates us from constraints for example, expensive real estate trap that so many young people are trapped. So many people are trapped in heavy big mortgages in big cities. One of the reasons entrepreneurship has fallen in the last 20 years in this country is because too many people are trapped in heavy mortgage that they … and student loans, all of these issues. So they don’t have the freedom to experiment, freedom to go out on their own. So the cloud can be actually a transformational medium for it and the fact that we can work from anywhere and that is critical.

I see this now in terms that are not purely technology, but its sociological implications that it can revitalize rural areas. It can retain talent, it can even attract talent back into rural areas because rural areas have suffered a brain drain, talent drain for a long time, talent it will be simply upper leaf. But now people can stay in their home towns, maybe come back to their home towns and help revitalize those areas. So all these are possible today.

Small Business Trends: And you talk education in terms of lowering that cost. But when you started looking at the data centers and being able to be more efficient in the way that you use power in that role of it, talk a little bit about that in terms of “costly inputs.”

Sridhar Vembu: I remember one of the biggest cost items would be running the data centers to deliver our services, our applications to customers. One crucial ingredient of data center cost is power. The power consumed by all the servers and the switches and all of that. And it turns out there are many, many ways now to reduce the power and also provide the power in the renewable power, like a hydroelectric power or solar power all of these. So we look for data centers with that, so we now built a solar plant to power data centers in India, we’ve hydro-power powering our data centers in the US, so these are some of the areas that we pay attention to. We also are looking for ways next generation to reduce the amount of power, to serve a particular customer in the data center, this translates both into lower overall power consumption and it also lowers the cost of service delivery long term. So these are things that we look at.

Small Business Trends: One of the stats that came out, I forget who said about it might have been you or it might’ve been Raju, somewhere along the line, it would cost $10 million a year if you are running Zia [Zoho’s AI technology] on AWS. Talk about the impact of not running on AWS has for Zoho, and Zoho customers.

Sridhar Vembu: As you look at our search infrastructure that is searching across a very wide span of applications, it’s sucking in all of the data of the customer in Zoho, indexing it, cross correlating it and cross indexing it. Your CRM data, your financial data, your document data, your email data, your chat data, all of it has to be cross-referenced, correlated, all of that. This takes massive amounts of compute and storage, all of these, these indexes, all that.

Public cloud infrastructure, we did evaluate for this. It cost us a lot more to do this than what it costs to do it ourselves. We would have to increase the prices substantially on our customers.

Customer Data Surveilling

Small Business Trends: I think, this subject today that got a lot of people’s attention was this whole idea of surveillance companies and surveilled data. A lot of people probably don’t know what that means and maybe you could just define what that means?

Sridhar Vembu: Today, regrettably, many consumer internet companies have become de facto surveillance companies. It’s Google and Facebook, all of them. Whether they like to be called that or not, they have become surveillance companies. And exactly the same way that citizens would react to the thought of if the government surveilled them, we also have to react to internet company surveillance. It’s wrong, it’s wrong with them but normally it’s wrong when private companies do it and it’s done with the purpose of marketing all of that data.

But in fact there was news yesterday where this company was fined 140 million something because they were actually the free software for EHR, Electronic Health Records. They were showing the doctors, they were prompting the doctors to prescribe their Opioids. And they had a secret arrangement with a pharma company to enable this, to increase the sales of all those painkiller prescriptions and the Feds caught them and severe fine was imposed on them. This just shows the negative consequence of that type of a business model were you are sharing data with [crosstalk 00:13:05] .

Small Business Trends: Basically, it’s the data/advertising model like Google.

Sridhar Vembu: Yes.

Small Business Trends: They make a lot of their money from ads [crosstalk 00:13:13].

Sridhar Vembu: And this creates really bad incentives on … and there is always somebody with a tempting offer for how we want to use the data. And this example this pharma example shows that.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: But it has a huge cost to society and to people who are prescribed useless painkillers for things they don’t need. So this is why I think it’s important. And at the same time, I would say this, my phone knows everything I do, especially today. To be a smart phone it has to know everything about me. So I’m not worried that it knows what I do, I’m only worried about where the data will go, what the companies that have access to the data build with the data.

Small Business Trends: How they use it.

Sridhar Vembu: How they use it.

Small Business Trends: How they sell it off to the third party.

Sridhar Vembu: Exactly, so this is why I think I draw this thing right to be a smart phone. It needs to know a lot about me, but I don’t want everyone to know everything about me. My where abouts, where I am, what I’m doing right now all of these things, it doesn’t have to be broadcast to the entire world. In effect that’s what has happened to a lot of us, where all these surveillance companies are taking this data and repackaging it and selling it to various parties, without the customers knowledge, you don’t even know how many places this data is going today. And so I do believe that we are going to have … not only this is, in fact I give this analogy, it’s exactly how smoking was 40, 50 years ago, but if we had … we’re sitting here having this chat 40, 50 years ago, one of us would be smoking.

Small Business Trends: Yeah.

Sridhar Vembu: It was very common.

Small Business Trends: Right on TV.

Sridhar Vembu: Right on TV and In this room probably like everybody would be smoking and it would be so common place that we all accepted it.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: Today we actually don’t accept it. Nobody smokes inside buildings and we even have laws against it now that every closed place and offices, hotels everything should be smoke free, no smoking zone. And this happened both by social awareness of the harms of secondhand smoke and legislation. I believe the same thing is happening now, the awareness is spreading that this privacy violation is happening, surveillance is wrong. Now legislation is following, slowly GDPR as an example, California passed a law. I don’t believe stringent regulations are necessarily here and this won’t prevent progress. It will guide it the right direction where we draw boundaries, ethical boundaries. What can a software engineer do with the data? Data is now a valuable thing about a person and so software engineers have to handle it the same way a doctor handles a patient.

Small Business Trends: Medical records, yeah.

Sridhar Vembu: Medical records of a patient. There’re ethical boundaries based on doctors, we need ethical boundaries on software engineers.

Small Business Trends: There was a question because you went over this today and there was a question. I think it’s a pretty valid question, because everybody in industry pretty much is doing this. I don’t know if that’s purposely or not there, it’s the way it’s gone in the industry. But what does that cost Zoho in terms of is there a lost insights? Is there lost revenue? What does that cost you and why do you think the benefit of doing what you’re doing outweighs it?

Sridhar Vembu: So for example, we eliminated all trackers, third party trackers from our site and even our own marketing was apprehensive at first that they’re going to lose certain insights. And I told them that’s okay. We build the tools in house and we do not share the data with anybody so that’s a given. So that was what I said and that did have an initial cost to it. And I’m the certain we cannot compute for certain campaigns we do. And that’s an acceptable price to pay in my opinion, longer term, the trust we had with the customer, is far better than any short term things.

In reality, we have been growing consistently and the growth has actually accelerated in the last couple of years as we have taken a stronger privacy stance. So I would say maybe does even help the business, even though that was not why we did it, because we were willing to pay the price. In fact, we were willing to suffer a reduction on traffic if that’s what’s going to happen. I said, that’s okay. Because life is short.  How badly do you want to be successful if you don’t feel good about how you do it … you cannot sleep well at night. That’s how I put it.

This article, "Sridhar Vembu of Zoho: The Cloud Should Have a Deeper Purpose, But Surveilling Data Isn’t It" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

Sridhar Vembu of Zoho: The Cloud Should Have a Deeper Purpose, But Surveilling Data Isn’t It

Well I know we’re into a new year now, because my first conference of 2020 just ended.  Zoho’s annual analyst event took place in Austin, Texas this week and as in year’s past I had a chance to sit down with CEO and co-founder Sridhar Vembu for a wide-ranging conversation.  And quite literally we had a fireside chat.. while in rocking chairs.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation, where Vembu shares his thoughts on how the company has developed over the past five years, how it is positioning itself as a technology company and not just a software company, why he feels the cloud should help provide dignity and opportunity to rural communities, and why Zoho is taking a hard stance against the industry practice of “surveilling” customer data.  To hear the full conversation watch the video or click on the embedded SoundCloud player below.

The Cloud Should Have a Deeper Purpose, But Surveilling Customer Data Isn’t It

Small Business Trends: When you think about the last five years, what has that meant to Zoho the company?

Sridhar Vembu: We’ve seen tremendous growth. I think we showed, say over six, seven years,  almost 10 fold growth we have seen. And that I think is continuing now; the growth rate is still accelerating now. Now we now have an ability to tell the story as well as we are able to engineer the product. We’ve been a good company, but we were not able to tell the story before. Now, I think these events have helped us refine our messaging, help tell the story and connect with people.

Small Business Trends: So what is the big part of the story that may have been missing a couple of years ago that you can now tell and feel good about?

Sridhar Vembu: I think a lot of it is our culture as a company, how unique it is, how differentiated it is. I mean, we’re shy talking about ourselves as a company.

Small Business Trends: I’m going to say you are very shy …

Sridhar Vembu: Always, always been true. You know my attitude, build a great product, throw it over the fence, people would buy it if they want it. That was the attitude. These things have helped us realize there’s more to it than that. Because ultimately, every engineer has to learn this. Computers don’t buy products people do. And people have a reason, need a reason to buy it.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: They have to feel a connection with who is supplying technology to them. It’s not just only the technology, it’s also the connection, human connection. That’s the biggest thing that has changed in the last five years.

Small Business Trends: Now your evangelist, Raju Vegesna, he said a little earlier today that Zoho is not just a software company. It’s a technology company. Talk about that, what does that mean?

Sridhar Vembu: What Raju means is that this is a company that goes deep down into every aspect of what we do. And that is the depth of technology in terms of the software itself, the hardware underlying it, the networks that are powering or the data centers; all of it.  Also, in a deeper way, for example, we talked about construction, we talked about education, we talked about healthcare. So we think holistically about all these problems, not fragmented pieces, but we think holistically how are we going to get employees, train employees. How do our facilities look and how do they provide a nice home for employees. So these all of these aspects we think about.

Small Business Trends: You always come up with very good phrases. The last time we talked you talked about, how the capital is within the culture of the organization and not the finances.

Sridhar Vembu: Exactly.

Small Business Trends: And that really resonated with not only me but a lot of people. But this year you talked about how you don’t want to be … I want to make sure I get the phrase right. You don’t want to be a cost –

Sridhar Vembu: Costly input to our customers.

Small Business Trends: Costly input to your customers.

Sridhar Vembu: Yes.

Small Business Trends: Talk about what that means?

Sridhar Vembu: This actually came from my observation of the farm problem. The farmer problem, farmers face a problem where their inputs are getting costlier and costlier while the output is getting commoditized. So they’re literally squeezed. In fact, a lot of them have negative margin in their business now more and more, which is why the farm bankruptcies, a lot of the crises, rural crisis, agrarian crisis, which is pretty much worldwide. This is in the US, this is an India everywhere it’s happening.

I spent time in rural India and so I was able to observe these things first hand. Then I realized for a lot of businesses technology is a critical cost and we don’t want to be a costly input to our customers, because then our customers cannot survive in business very long term if they have very costly inputs from us. And so the only way to be sustainable, this relationship to be sustainable is we become an affordable input to them. This provides a nice framework to think about our business, how we structured ourselves. I talked about deep technology that is driven by the fact that we have to avoid costly inputs ourselves so that we don’t become a costly input to our customer.

Small Business Trends: So the other thing that really resonated is not only that you don’t want to be a costly input to your customers, but you want the cloud to be more than some great technology. You want it to – and I never heard anybody talk about it like this –  you want the cloud  to provide dignity.

Sridhar Vembu: Yeah.

Small Business Trends: And give more opportunity.

Sridhar Vembu: Correct.

Small Business Trends: Talk about that a little bit.

Sridhar Vembu: Today with technology we are able to work from anywhere. We just spoke before you said you work from home?

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: From Atlanta, in suburb of Atlanta, right? I actually worked for now mostly from rural India now and Raju works in Austin. And yet we are all connected now. I talked to Raju from rural India at least once a week and on video a couple of times a week.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: That’s what technology has enabled now. And this actually has startling implications for where the jobs are to be and what the incomes can be and the identity of people. In other words, if someone is a rural citizen and they have skills now they can actually have a job that pays a meaningful wage, that affords them a dignified life and they’re also be … could be change leaders in their communities. And all of this is possible today that was never before possible.

So to me, the cloud has a broader purpose, a bigger purpose. The cloud is not a delivery channel for software, cloud has a bigger purpose. It enables us to work from anywhere and that liberates us from constraints for example, expensive real estate trap that so many young people are trapped. So many people are trapped in heavy big mortgages in big cities. One of the reasons entrepreneurship has fallen in the last 20 years in this country is because too many people are trapped in heavy mortgage that they … and student loans, all of these issues. So they don’t have the freedom to experiment, freedom to go out on their own. So the cloud can be actually a transformational medium for it and the fact that we can work from anywhere and that is critical.

I see this now in terms that are not purely technology, but its sociological implications that it can revitalize rural areas. It can retain talent, it can even attract talent back into rural areas because rural areas have suffered a brain drain, talent drain for a long time, talent it will be simply upper leaf. But now people can stay in their home towns, maybe come back to their home towns and help revitalize those areas. So all these are possible today.

Small Business Trends: And you talk education in terms of lowering that cost. But when you started looking at the data centers and being able to be more efficient in the way that you use power in that role of it, talk a little bit about that in terms of “costly inputs.”

Sridhar Vembu: I remember one of the biggest cost items would be running the data centers to deliver our services, our applications to customers. One crucial ingredient of data center cost is power. The power consumed by all the servers and the switches and all of that. And it turns out there are many, many ways now to reduce the power and also provide the power in the renewable power, like a hydroelectric power or solar power all of these. So we look for data centers with that, so we now built a solar plant to power data centers in India, we’ve hydro-power powering our data centers in the US, so these are some of the areas that we pay attention to. We also are looking for ways next generation to reduce the amount of power, to serve a particular customer in the data center, this translates both into lower overall power consumption and it also lowers the cost of service delivery long term. So these are things that we look at.

Small Business Trends: One of the stats that came out, I forget who said about it might have been you or it might’ve been Raju, somewhere along the line, it would cost $10 million a year if you are running Zia [Zoho’s AI technology] on AWS. Talk about the impact of not running on AWS has for Zoho, and Zoho customers.

Sridhar Vembu: As you look at our search infrastructure that is searching across a very wide span of applications, it’s sucking in all of the data of the customer in Zoho, indexing it, cross correlating it and cross indexing it. Your CRM data, your financial data, your document data, your email data, your chat data, all of it has to be cross-referenced, correlated, all of that. This takes massive amounts of compute and storage, all of these, these indexes, all that.

Public cloud infrastructure, we did evaluate for this. It cost us a lot more to do this than what it costs to do it ourselves. We would have to increase the prices substantially on our customers.

Customer Data Surveilling

Small Business Trends: I think, this subject today that got a lot of people’s attention was this whole idea of surveillance companies and surveilled data. A lot of people probably don’t know what that means and maybe you could just define what that means?

Sridhar Vembu: Today, regrettably, many consumer internet companies have become de facto surveillance companies. It’s Google and Facebook, all of them. Whether they like to be called that or not, they have become surveillance companies. And exactly the same way that citizens would react to the thought of if the government surveilled them, we also have to react to internet company surveillance. It’s wrong, it’s wrong with them but normally it’s wrong when private companies do it and it’s done with the purpose of marketing all of that data.

But in fact there was news yesterday where this company was fined 140 million something because they were actually the free software for EHR, Electronic Health Records. They were showing the doctors, they were prompting the doctors to prescribe their Opioids. And they had a secret arrangement with a pharma company to enable this, to increase the sales of all those painkiller prescriptions and the Feds caught them and severe fine was imposed on them. This just shows the negative consequence of that type of a business model were you are sharing data with [crosstalk 00:13:05] .

Small Business Trends: Basically, it’s the data/advertising model like Google.

Sridhar Vembu: Yes.

Small Business Trends: They make a lot of their money from ads [crosstalk 00:13:13].

Sridhar Vembu: And this creates really bad incentives on … and there is always somebody with a tempting offer for how we want to use the data. And this example this pharma example shows that.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: But it has a huge cost to society and to people who are prescribed useless painkillers for things they don’t need. So this is why I think it’s important. And at the same time, I would say this, my phone knows everything I do, especially today. To be a smart phone it has to know everything about me. So I’m not worried that it knows what I do, I’m only worried about where the data will go, what the companies that have access to the data build with the data.

Small Business Trends: How they use it.

Sridhar Vembu: How they use it.

Small Business Trends: How they sell it off to the third party.

Sridhar Vembu: Exactly, so this is why I think I draw this thing right to be a smart phone. It needs to know a lot about me, but I don’t want everyone to know everything about me. My where abouts, where I am, what I’m doing right now all of these things, it doesn’t have to be broadcast to the entire world. In effect that’s what has happened to a lot of us, where all these surveillance companies are taking this data and repackaging it and selling it to various parties, without the customers knowledge, you don’t even know how many places this data is going today. And so I do believe that we are going to have … not only this is, in fact I give this analogy, it’s exactly how smoking was 40, 50 years ago, but if we had … we’re sitting here having this chat 40, 50 years ago, one of us would be smoking.

Small Business Trends: Yeah.

Sridhar Vembu: It was very common.

Small Business Trends: Right on TV.

Sridhar Vembu: Right on TV and In this room probably like everybody would be smoking and it would be so common place that we all accepted it.

Small Business Trends: Right.

Sridhar Vembu: Today we actually don’t accept it. Nobody smokes inside buildings and we even have laws against it now that every closed place and offices, hotels everything should be smoke free, no smoking zone. And this happened both by social awareness of the harms of secondhand smoke and legislation. I believe the same thing is happening now, the awareness is spreading that this privacy violation is happening, surveillance is wrong. Now legislation is following, slowly GDPR as an example, California passed a law. I don’t believe stringent regulations are necessarily here and this won’t prevent progress. It will guide it the right direction where we draw boundaries, ethical boundaries. What can a software engineer do with the data? Data is now a valuable thing about a person and so software engineers have to handle it the same way a doctor handles a patient.

Small Business Trends: Medical records, yeah.

Sridhar Vembu: Medical records of a patient. There’re ethical boundaries based on doctors, we need ethical boundaries on software engineers.

Small Business Trends: There was a question because you went over this today and there was a question. I think it’s a pretty valid question, because everybody in industry pretty much is doing this. I don’t know if that’s purposely or not there, it’s the way it’s gone in the industry. But what does that cost Zoho in terms of is there a lost insights? Is there lost revenue? What does that cost you and why do you think the benefit of doing what you’re doing outweighs it?

Sridhar Vembu: So for example, we eliminated all trackers, third party trackers from our site and even our own marketing was apprehensive at first that they’re going to lose certain insights. And I told them that’s okay. We build the tools in house and we do not share the data with anybody so that’s a given. So that was what I said and that did have an initial cost to it. And I’m the certain we cannot compute for certain campaigns we do. And that’s an acceptable price to pay in my opinion, longer term, the trust we had with the customer, is far better than any short term things.

In reality, we have been growing consistently and the growth has actually accelerated in the last couple of years as we have taken a stronger privacy stance. So I would say maybe does even help the business, even though that was not why we did it, because we were willing to pay the price. In fact, we were willing to suffer a reduction on traffic if that’s what’s going to happen. I said, that’s okay. Because life is short.  How badly do you want to be successful if you don’t feel good about how you do it … you cannot sleep well at night. That’s how I put it.

This article, "Sridhar Vembu of Zoho: The Cloud Should Have a Deeper Purpose, But Surveilling Data Isn’t It" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Are Jeans Business Casual?

Are Jeans Business Casual?

Business casual seems the common dress code for workplaces. But what exactly defines business casual? And do you include jeans in the mix for your small business’s dress code?

You’ll find conflicting rules about business casual these days. So you might end up wondering, “Are jeans business casual?” See the answer below.

Are Jeans Business Casual?

It turns out they could be. But it depends on a number of factors. Small Business Trends recently spoke with some style and etiquette experts to dig into the details.

Bridgette Raes serves as the personal stylist and consultant behind Bridgette Raes Style Group. Raes says, “With the continued casualization of the workplace, jeans have become increasingly more acceptable. Of course, there are still work environments where jeans are either never acceptable or are only acceptable on Fridays and these environments tend to be more corporate or professional, like law or finance or situations where employees are interfacing with more corporate companies.”

Sherry Maysonave works as an author, speaker, and founded Empowerment Enterprises. Maysonave adds, “In my book, Casual Power, I discouraged jeans in the workplace. At that time, sloppy casual was the norm. Today, the pendulum has leveled and professional attire embraces suits as well as many levels of business casual. I do believe that jeans have their place in some work environments, especially when they’re worn smartly. It’s important though that the employee understand what type and when appropriate.”

Where Business Casual Jeans May and May Not Be Acceptable

The first factor experts recommend when determining whether or not denim may be appropriate is considering industry itself. A casual business could include things like an online marketing firm, app development company, or bicycle repair shop. However, many traditional industries require formal attire like suits, dresses, or nice pants.

Lucy Hume works as Associate Director at etiquette training provider Debrett’s. Hume told Small Business Trends, “The level of formality demanded by office wear is largely dependent on the industry and culture of the organisation. Jeans may be considered more appropriate for modern creative fields such as PR, marketing and media, and less so in more formal and traditional industries such as insurance, law and finance.”

Think About the Job

Think about the types of jobs you have to complete on a daily basis. Do you do a lot of behind the scenes work? If so, jeans translate as a comfortable option. Do you meet with big clients? If so, consider something more dressy as an option. Additionally, don’t wear jeans for a job interview, unless specifically stated otherwise.

Raes says, “A dress code that is becoming more common is “dress for your day” which means the dress code is more situational and an employee can make their own decisions on what is appropriate for the type of day they have or who they will be interacting with. In dress for your day workplaces, an employee is entrusted to know when it is or isn’t appropriate to wear jeans. This can be very empowering for employees an employer is trusting their employees to make smart choices.”

In fact, businesses don’t need to have just one basic dress code. Some employees can get away with more casual attire than others.

Maysonave says, “Many companies today require one level of dress for salespeople and those employees interfacing with customers/the public, while allowing a more casual level for workers in cubicles or back offices.”

However, please note that many small businesses have fairly fluid roles. So don’t assume your employees will be doing the same job everyday.

Maysonave adds, “And one never knows just when opportunity may knock. You may seem to be stuck in a back office and suddenly be thrust in front of the customer unexpectedly. In small businesses, employees often must double up on roles when understaffed.”

How to Wear Business Casual Jeans

Look at Your Superiors’ Attire

Hume suggests, “Observe how other people dress, particularly those who are senior to you, and try to reflect this in your own office wear. Consider the style of communication within the organisation – does it tend to be formal and official, or quite casual? Do you have to attend meetings with clients, where it’s necessary to present a professional persona? All of these factors will give you some idea about whether or not jeans are appropriate.”

Keep Jeans Professional

Raes explains, “Employees who are allowed to wear jeans to work should avoid wearing a casual pair of jeans they would wear on the weekends. Darker and unfaded jeans are typically seen as less casual and more professional. Fit is also important. Employees should test bending down to make sure nothing unsuitable is exposed when bending. Jeans should not be too tight or too body hugging. Jeans should be hemmed properly, fresh and clean.”

Pair Them With Other Business Casual Attire

Maysonave says, “Keep in mind that your physical/visual image is a shocking 55% of your overall communication. The multitude of nonverbal messages inherent in clothing and grooming often supersede intentions and even good performance, affecting how one’s abilities and aptitudes are perceived by the powers that be. Your personal image matters. You send critical messages about yourself, your habits, and your goals simply by the way you present yourself. Think of it this way: your choices of garments (and how they’re put together as well as their color, condition and quality), your shoes and other accessories, and your grooming all shout out information about you.”

Tips for Setting a Small Business Dress Code

Consider the Perception of Your Work Wear

Small business owners should consider this. Don’t just think about dressing appropriately yourself. Also make sure your employees represent your brand in a positive way. Carefully think about when, and how jeans may or may not be acceptable in your workplace.

Maysonave says, “Also, it’s important to address how you want jeans to be worn. What’s acceptable and promotes your company brand? Jeans with t-shirts and sneakers? Or jeans with business-like shirts, blouses/tops, and shoes. Employers must consider how they want to be perceived, and their employees are their golden face to the public.”

Be Specific When It Comes to Style

Ideally, your dress code should make it very clear what you expect from your employees in specific situations.

Hume says, “If business owners wish to impose an office dress code, it’s best to set this out in an employee manual or introductory document for any new recruits. Be as specific as possible, eg. ’No jeans or trainers’ or ‘Jeans may be worn, but should be neat and clean with no rips.’”

This improves your company’s professionalism when working with clients or customers. But it also give employees more confidence and clarity. They know what’s expected when getting ready for work.

Raes says, “Many employees I have spoken to miss having to wear suits not because they necessarily want to go back to wearing suits again but because it was easy and clear for them to figure out what to wear. In a time where offices have become more casual and sportswear driven, employees are expected to figure out how to create dynamic and professional looks with mix-and-match separates. And because employers can be too general with their dress code do’s and don’ts, this leaves a lot up to the employee to figure it out.”

Address Dress Code Issues Fairly

In some cases, simply explain what you expect from employees. But this may not ensure they live up to your dress code standards. Still don’t disallow jeans altogether. Consider simply providing examples of what is appropriate and what isn’t.

Raes adds, “Visuals partnered with verbal direction can be helpful in making the guidelines clear. Also, go beyond just giving parameters on the type of jeans that are allowed. Show examples of complete denim looks so employees understand that general the type of jeans outfits that are allowed in the workplace.”

Bring in a Style Expert

Finally, you may not wish to design a dress code or address business casual jeans in the office. If not, let a style consultant help. Raes and similar professionals offer consulting services. They can determine the types of clothing that work for your business goals and objectives.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "Are Jeans Business Casual?" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

Are Jeans Business Casual?

Are Jeans Business Casual?

Business casual seems the common dress code for workplaces. But what exactly defines business casual? And do you include jeans in the mix for your small business’s dress code?

You’ll find conflicting rules about business casual these days. So you might end up wondering, “Are jeans business casual?” See the answer below.

Are Jeans Business Casual?

It turns out they could be. But it depends on a number of factors. Small Business Trends recently spoke with some style and etiquette experts to dig into the details.

Bridgette Raes serves as the personal stylist and consultant behind Bridgette Raes Style Group. Raes says, “With the continued casualization of the workplace, jeans have become increasingly more acceptable. Of course, there are still work environments where jeans are either never acceptable or are only acceptable on Fridays and these environments tend to be more corporate or professional, like law or finance or situations where employees are interfacing with more corporate companies.”

Sherry Maysonave works as an author, speaker, and founded Empowerment Enterprises. Maysonave adds, “In my book, Casual Power, I discouraged jeans in the workplace. At that time, sloppy casual was the norm. Today, the pendulum has leveled and professional attire embraces suits as well as many levels of business casual. I do believe that jeans have their place in some work environments, especially when they’re worn smartly. It’s important though that the employee understand what type and when appropriate.”

Where Business Casual Jeans May and May Not Be Acceptable

The first factor experts recommend when determining whether or not denim may be appropriate is considering industry itself. A casual business could include things like an online marketing firm, app development company, or bicycle repair shop. However, many traditional industries require formal attire like suits, dresses, or nice pants.

Lucy Hume works as Associate Director at etiquette training provider Debrett’s. Hume told Small Business Trends, “The level of formality demanded by office wear is largely dependent on the industry and culture of the organisation. Jeans may be considered more appropriate for modern creative fields such as PR, marketing and media, and less so in more formal and traditional industries such as insurance, law and finance.”

Think About the Job

Think about the types of jobs you have to complete on a daily basis. Do you do a lot of behind the scenes work? If so, jeans translate as a comfortable option. Do you meet with big clients? If so, consider something more dressy as an option. Additionally, don’t wear jeans for a job interview, unless specifically stated otherwise.

Raes says, “A dress code that is becoming more common is “dress for your day” which means the dress code is more situational and an employee can make their own decisions on what is appropriate for the type of day they have or who they will be interacting with. In dress for your day workplaces, an employee is entrusted to know when it is or isn’t appropriate to wear jeans. This can be very empowering for employees an employer is trusting their employees to make smart choices.”

In fact, businesses don’t need to have just one basic dress code. Some employees can get away with more casual attire than others.

Maysonave says, “Many companies today require one level of dress for salespeople and those employees interfacing with customers/the public, while allowing a more casual level for workers in cubicles or back offices.”

However, please note that many small businesses have fairly fluid roles. So don’t assume your employees will be doing the same job everyday.

Maysonave adds, “And one never knows just when opportunity may knock. You may seem to be stuck in a back office and suddenly be thrust in front of the customer unexpectedly. In small businesses, employees often must double up on roles when understaffed.”

How to Wear Business Casual Jeans

Look at Your Superiors’ Attire

Hume suggests, “Observe how other people dress, particularly those who are senior to you, and try to reflect this in your own office wear. Consider the style of communication within the organisation – does it tend to be formal and official, or quite casual? Do you have to attend meetings with clients, where it’s necessary to present a professional persona? All of these factors will give you some idea about whether or not jeans are appropriate.”

Keep Jeans Professional

Raes explains, “Employees who are allowed to wear jeans to work should avoid wearing a casual pair of jeans they would wear on the weekends. Darker and unfaded jeans are typically seen as less casual and more professional. Fit is also important. Employees should test bending down to make sure nothing unsuitable is exposed when bending. Jeans should not be too tight or too body hugging. Jeans should be hemmed properly, fresh and clean.”

Pair Them With Other Business Casual Attire

Maysonave says, “Keep in mind that your physical/visual image is a shocking 55% of your overall communication. The multitude of nonverbal messages inherent in clothing and grooming often supersede intentions and even good performance, affecting how one’s abilities and aptitudes are perceived by the powers that be. Your personal image matters. You send critical messages about yourself, your habits, and your goals simply by the way you present yourself. Think of it this way: your choices of garments (and how they’re put together as well as their color, condition and quality), your shoes and other accessories, and your grooming all shout out information about you.”

Tips for Setting a Small Business Dress Code

Consider the Perception of Your Work Wear

Small business owners should consider this. Don’t just think about dressing appropriately yourself. Also make sure your employees represent your brand in a positive way. Carefully think about when, and how jeans may or may not be acceptable in your workplace.

Maysonave says, “Also, it’s important to address how you want jeans to be worn. What’s acceptable and promotes your company brand? Jeans with t-shirts and sneakers? Or jeans with business-like shirts, blouses/tops, and shoes. Employers must consider how they want to be perceived, and their employees are their golden face to the public.”

Be Specific When It Comes to Style

Ideally, your dress code should make it very clear what you expect from your employees in specific situations.

Hume says, “If business owners wish to impose an office dress code, it’s best to set this out in an employee manual or introductory document for any new recruits. Be as specific as possible, eg. ’No jeans or trainers’ or ‘Jeans may be worn, but should be neat and clean with no rips.’”

This improves your company’s professionalism when working with clients or customers. But it also give employees more confidence and clarity. They know what’s expected when getting ready for work.

Raes says, “Many employees I have spoken to miss having to wear suits not because they necessarily want to go back to wearing suits again but because it was easy and clear for them to figure out what to wear. In a time where offices have become more casual and sportswear driven, employees are expected to figure out how to create dynamic and professional looks with mix-and-match separates. And because employers can be too general with their dress code do’s and don’ts, this leaves a lot up to the employee to figure it out.”

Address Dress Code Issues Fairly

In some cases, simply explain what you expect from employees. But this may not ensure they live up to your dress code standards. Still don’t disallow jeans altogether. Consider simply providing examples of what is appropriate and what isn’t.

Raes adds, “Visuals partnered with verbal direction can be helpful in making the guidelines clear. Also, go beyond just giving parameters on the type of jeans that are allowed. Show examples of complete denim looks so employees understand that general the type of jeans outfits that are allowed in the workplace.”

Bring in a Style Expert

Finally, you may not wish to design a dress code or address business casual jeans in the office. If not, let a style consultant help. Raes and similar professionals offer consulting services. They can determine the types of clothing that work for your business goals and objectives.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, "Are Jeans Business Casual?" was first published on Small Business Trends



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The Art of Business Spin (CARTOON)

This article, "The Art of Business Spin (CARTOON)" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

The Art of Business Spin (CARTOON)

This article, "The Art of Business Spin (CARTOON)" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Top 7 Web Design Trends You Can’t Ignore In 2020

If there’s one thing you always here in the web design industry, it’s always, “What’s next?” As a new year begins, there will be even newer trends you’ll need to follow to stay relevant. Yes, even this 2020, you’ll need to monitor what’s to come and what viewers want to see!

Web design trends

Granted, the trends this 2020 may not be as different or the newest, but they have evolved. They are now even more redefined in ways no web designer should ignore. So check out these seven web design trends you need to know about this year.

Seven Web Design Trends to Watch Out For

There are so many web design trends out now, but not all of them are exactly the best.…

The post Top 7 Web Design Trends You Can’t Ignore In 2020 appeared first on SMALL BUSINESS CEO.



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SEO for 2020 - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

It's a brand-new decade, rich with all the promise of a fresh start and new beginnings. But does that mean you should be doing anything different with regards to your SEO?

In this Whiteboard Friday, our Senior SEO Scientist Britney Muller offers a seventeen-point checklist of things you ought to keep in mind for executing on modern, effective SEO. You'll encounter both old favorites (optimizing title tags, anyone?) and cutting-edge ideas to power your search strategy from this year on into the future.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we are talking about SEO in 2020. What does that look like? How have things changed?

Do we need to be optimizing for favicons and BERT? We definitely don't. But here are some of the things that I feel we should be keeping an eye on. 

☑ Cover your bases with foundational SEO

Titles, metas, headers, alt text, site speed, robots.txt, site maps, UX, CRO, Analytics, etc.

To cover your bases with foundational SEO will continue to be incredibly important in 2020, basic things like title tags, meta descriptions, alt, all of the basic SEO 101 things.

There have been some conversations in the industry lately about alt text and things of that nature. When Google is getting so good at figuring out and knowing what's in an image, why would we necessarily need to continue providing alt text?

But you have to remember we need to continue to make the web an accessible place, and so for accessibility purposes we should absolutely continue to do those things. But I do highly suggest you check out Google's Visual API and play around with that to see how good they've actually gotten. It's pretty cool.

☑ Schema markup

FAQ, Breadcrumbs, News, Business Info, etc.

Schema markup will continue to be really important, FAQ schema, breadcrumbs, business info. The News schema that now is occurring in voice results is really interesting. I think we will see this space continue to grow, and you can definitely leverage those different markup types for your website. 

☑ Research what matters for your industry!

Just to keep in mind, there's going to be a lot of articles and research and information coming at you about where things are going, what you should do to prepare, and I want you to take a strategic stance on your industry and what's important in your space.

While I might suggest page speed is going to be really important in 2020, is it for your industry? We should still worry about these things and still continue to improve them. But if you're able to take a clearer look at ranking factors and what appears to be a factor for your specific space, you can better prioritize your fixes and leverage industry information to help you focus.

☑ National SERPs will no longer be reliable

You need to be acquiring localized SERPs and rankings.

This has been the case for a while. We need to localize search results and rankings to get an accurate and clear picture of what's going on in search results. I was going to put E-A-T here and then kind of cross it off.

A lot of people feel E-A-T is a huge factor moving forward. Just for the case of this post, it's always been a factor. It's been that way for the last ten-plus years, and we need to continue doing that stuff despite these various updates. I think it's always been important, and it will continue to be so. 

☑ Write good and useful content for people

While you can't optimize for BERT, you can write better for NLP.

This helps optimize your text for natural language processing. It helps make it more accessible and friendly for BERT. While you can't necessarily optimize for something like BERT, you can just write really great content that people are looking for.

☑ Understand and fulfill searcher intent, and keep in mind that there's oftentimes multi-intent

One thing to think about this space is we've kind of gone from very, very specific keywords to this richer understanding of, okay, what is the intent behind these keywords? How can we organize that and provide even better value and content to our visitors? 

One way to go about that is to consider Google houses the world's data. They know what people are searching for when they look for a particular thing in search. So put your detective glasses on and examine what is it that they are showing for a particular keyword.

Is there a common theme throughout the pages? Tailor your content and your intent to solve for that. You could write the best article in the world on DIY Halloween costumes, but if you're not providing those visual elements that you so clearly see in a Google search result page, you're never going to rank on page 1.

☑ Entity and topical integration baked into your IA

Have a rich understanding of your audience and what they're seeking.

This plays well into entities and topical understanding. Again, we've gone from keywords and now we want to have this richer, better awareness of keyword buckets. 

What are those topical things that people are looking for in your particular space? What are the entities, the people, places, or things that people are investigating in your space, and how can you better organize your website to provide some of those answers and those structures around those different pieces? That's incredibly important, and I look forward to seeing where this goes in 2020. 

☑ Optimize for featured snippets

Featured snippets are not going anywhere. They are here to stay. The best way to do this is to find the keywords that you currently rank on page 1 for that also have a featured snippet box. These are your opportunities. If you're on page 1, you're way more apt to potentially steal or rank for a featured snippet.

One of the best ways to do that is to provide really succinct, beautiful, easy-to-understand summaries, takeaways, etc., kind of mimic what other people are doing, but obviously don't copy or steal any of that. Really fun space to explore and get better at in 2020. 

☑ Invest in visuals

We see Google putting more authority behind visuals, whether it be in search or you name it. It is incredibly valuable for your SEO, whether it be unique images or video content that is organized in a structured way, where Google can provide those sections in that video search result. You can do all sorts of really neat things with visuals. 

☑ Cultivate engagement

This is good anyway, and we should have been doing this before. Gary Illyes was quoted as saying, "Comments are better for on-site engagement than social signals." I will let you interpret that how you will.

But I think it goes to show that engagement and creating this community is still going to be incredibly important moving forward into the future.

☑ Repurpose your content

Blog post → slides → audio → video

This is so important, and it will help you excel even more in 2020 if you find your top-performing web pages and you repurpose them into maybe be a SlideShare, maybe a YouTube video, maybe various pins on Pinterest, or answers on Quora.

You can start to refurbish your content and expand your reach online, which is really exciting. In addition to that, it's also interesting to play around with the idea of providing people options to consume your content. Even with this Whiteboard Friday, we could have an audio version that people could just listen to if they were on their commute. We have the transcription. Provide options for people to consume your content. 

☑ Prune or improve thin or low-quality pages

This has been incredibly powerful for myself and many other SEOs I know in improving the perceived quality of a site. So consider testing and meta no-indexing low-quality, thin pages on a website. Especially larger websites, we see a pretty big impact there. 

☑ Get customer insights!

This will continue to be valuable in understanding your target market. It will be valuable for influencer marketing for all sorts of reasons. One of the incredible tools that are currently available by our Whiteboard Friday extraordinaire, Rand Fishkin, is SparkToro. So you guys have to check that out when it gets released soon. Super exciting. 

☑ Find keyword opportunities in Google Search Console

It's shocking how few people do this and how accessible it is. If you go into your Google Search Console and you export as much data as you can around your queries, your click-through rate, your position, and impressions, you can do some incredible, simple visualizations to find opportunities.

For example, if this is the rank of your keywords and this is the click-through rate, where do you have high click-through rate but low ranking position? What are those opportunity keywords? Incredibly valuable. You can do this in all sorts of tools. One I recommend, and I will create a little tutorial for, is a free tool called Facets, made by Google for machine learning. It makes it really easy to just pick those apart. 

☑ Target link-intent keywords

A couple quick link building tactics for 2020 that will continue to hopefully work very, very well. What I mean by link-intent keywords is your keyword statistics, your keyword facts.

These are searches people naturally want to reference. They want to link to it. They want to cite it in a presentation. If you can build really great content around those link-intent keywords, you can do incredibly well and naturally build links to a website. 

☑ Podcasts

Whether you're a guest or a host on a podcast, it's incredibly easy to get links. It's kind of a fun link building hack. 

☑ Provide unique research with visuals

Andy Crestodina does this so incredibly well. So explore creating your own unique research and not making it too commercial but valuable for users. I know this was a lot.

There's a lot going on in 2020, but I hope some of this is valuable to you. I truly can't wait to hear your thoughts on these recommendations, things you think I missed, things that you would remove or change. Please let us know down below in the comments, and I will see you all soon. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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