4 Steps to Follow When Leaving the Corporate World for Entrepreneurship

After two decades in the workforce, Ohio businesswoman Deborah Wasylko found herself faced with the prospect of having to move to keep her job while dealing with challenges in her family life. Wasylko concluded that she had a choice: continue her corporate career or become an entrepreneur.

“I decided to start a corporate gift company, because that’s what I love to do,” says Wasylko, the founder and president of Baskets Galore, which creates gift baskets for corporate clients. She had long been enthusiastic about visual design and making people feel cared for, she says, and her new venture touched on both interests. “It was my opportunity to re-engineer my career and follow my passion.”

The allure of becoming your own boss seems strong: As of 2014, there were more than 29 million small businesses in the U.S, up 6% from 2010, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

4 Steps to Follow When Leaving the Corporate World for Entrepreneurship

But excelling in an office doesn’t mean you’re bound for entrepreneurial success. In addition to many logistical and financial challenges, the transition from employee to entrepreneur involves a distinct shift in mentality. Before you make the leap, take these steps to make sure you’re ready beyond the numbers.

1. Talk with Other Entrepreneurs

The best way to psychologically prepare for the jump from a corporate job to calling the shots is to talk with those who have already made the transition.

“You don’t want to reinvent the wheel every single time,” says Cathy Posner, a small-business coach in Ohio.

Ask other entrepreneurs how their roles in corporate America prepared — or failed to prepare — them to run a small business. What do they wish they had done differently? What do they wish they had known ahead of time?

And, most importantly, would they do it again?

2. Identify Your Resources

A small-business mentor from SCORE is invaluable to entrepreneurs, Posner says. This free program, which is supported by the SBA, connects seasoned professionals with small-business owners. A mentor can help you turn your understanding of corporate goals into a business strategy. He or she can help you define your services, determine the fees you’ll charge and give advice on daily business tasks you may not have handled before, such as marketing and managing employees, Posner says.

Ultimately, you are your best resource. The skills you developed in a corporate environment — project management, organizational skills, employee management — will be even more important, says Posner. “Everything that you do starts to be magnified.”

Wasylko particularly appreciates having learned in the corporate arena how to remain calm in the spotlight, giving presentations in front of executives or large crowds. As a fledgling business owner, “I wasn’t intimidated, and I had more poise as a result of doing all those things: being clear, being decisive, being organized,” she says.

3. Prepare Yourself for Uncertainty

Being an entrepreneur involves higher highs and lower lows than working in an office, Posner says.

“In many corporate environments, your responsibilities can be pretty segmented,” she says. But when you’re a small-business owner, “the buck stops 100 percent at you.”

Brainstorm ways to keep yourself grounded in the face of uncertainty. After JJ DiGeronimo transitioned from Silicon Valley startups to running a consulting firm for women in tech fields, she found she had to redefine what success looked like.

“I think entrepreneurship brings out your own deficiencies, and for me, a lot of that was around self-identity,” DiGeronimo says. After years of identifying with her title and salary, she found herself in a role that emphasized the less concrete objective of personal and professional growth.

“Our society often aligns success to money, but as an entrepreneur, it can take time to make money,” she says. “Finding ways to align to the goodwill of your work is important.”

DiGeronimo found support from fellow entrepreneurs, blogs and books; a favorite was “The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources.”

4. Network, Collaborate, Repeat

In a corporate environment, you’ve likely already dipped your toes in the networking pool. Take advantage of those connections before you leave your 9-to-5. Contacts and resources may prove invaluable, and you never know who may become a client. Networking events are also a good place to meet other business owners with whom to collaborate, Posner says. For example, wedding photographers and florists often cross-promote services.

And networking groups provide a partial replacement for one of the major benefits you’ll lose after leaving your job: colleagues.

“When you go off and work by yourself, sometimes you need that energy,” DiGeronimo says. “You need that soundboard.”

Ditching the Suit Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Following These 4 Tips will Make Leaving the Corporate World for Entrepreneurship Easier" was first published on Small Business Trends

The Impact of Biometrics on Payments

Biometrics and authentication are two of the most discussed topics in the world of mobile payments. This interest is due to technology like Apple’s Touch ID.  According to research commissioned by Visa and Populas in 2016, two-thirds of Europeans are ready to use biometrics for secure payments. Business Insider predicts 99 percent of U.S. smartphones will be biometrics-enabled by 2021.

In the search for greater security, this technology has raised the excitement level about what’s possible for stopping hackers in their tracks. “Biometric identification and verification has created a great deal of excitement in the payments space. It offers an opportunity to streamline and improve the customer experience,” said Jonathan Vaux, Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships at Visa Europe. “Our research shows that biometrics is increasingly recognized as a trusted form of authentication as people become more familiar with using these capabilities on their devices.”

Acceptance Challenges

Yet, challenges remain. One of these is the potential for a false positive or false negative during the authentication process. Unlike a PIN, biometrics is not a binary measurement. Instead, it’s based on the probability of a match. By linking it to other factors, such as the device, geolocation technologies, or another authentication method, this challenge can be overcome.

The Impact of Biometrics on Payments

An Overview of Biometrics and Authentication

To understand the impact this technology is having, it’s important to first understand what it does. Biometrics is technology and scientific authentication based on biology that’s used for security purposes. It can replace ID cards, PINs, passwords, or tokens. Examples include digital fingerprinting, facial identification, voice recognition, and iris technology.

For example, before a credit card transaction is authorized, biometric authentication can be used to authenticate identity. Transactions are verified by comparing an image against what’s in a database. For example, fingerprint or facial recognition software can ensure that the right person is making the purchase. Online businesses can also use biometrics for their card-not-present transactions to reduce the risk of fraud.

Impact on Payments

With this type of capability, it’s no wonder why biometric technology is shaping the future of payments. Your body is your password. “People choose convenience over security,” Mikhail Gofman, Professor at California State University, Fullerton, and an expert on multimodal biometrics, told TechCrunch. “People are relieved of the responsibility of designing and remembering a strong password — you don’t have to remember your fingerprint, it’s a part of who you are.”

There also appears to be a positive impact on payments outside of the U.S. and Europe. Acceptance is growing in Asia and Latin America where transaction security has been a long-standing issue. With proof that biometric technology can reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions, more global transactions are being made. This impact on payments also helps small businesses in these other countries to now compete within the global business environment and leverage online opportunities.

Measurable Benefits

The impact can also be felt in the number of benefits that biometric technology offers:

  • Makes transactions secure. While there are some concerns, biometrics is intrinsically secure. No one has the same fingerprint, eyes, ears, voice, heartbeat, or behaviors. The security that biometrics provides could finally give customers some peace of mind to adopt mobile payments for their transactions.
  • Simplifies transactions. “Online payments are always a big headache. You forget your password … you worry about security,” said Alibaba founder Jack MaAlipay’s “Smile To Pay”allows users to complete a transaction by just smiling or nodding. MasterCard unveiled its “Selfie” payment technology where customers take a selfie to verify their identity for payment. This can speed up transactions over having to enter a password or insert a chip into an EMV terminal.
  • Saves businesses time and money. “The technology is less time-consuming, reliable, easy to use, difficult to forge, cost-effective,” said Subhasree Banerjee, a Content Marketer with AuthenticID. Biometrics also reduces password administration costs and increases ROI in areas like loss prevention or time and attendance. There is no time spent searching for lost tokens or trying to remember passwords.

As more businesses enjoy these advantages, adoption is set to grow rapidly, especially in light of all the ongoing security breaches and fraudulent transactions that continue to plague the payments industry.

Biometrics Set to Grow Further

Biometric technology will continue to grow in use as more businesses seek additional layers of security for their online transactions.

Images: Due.com

This article, "Will Biometrics Change the Way Your Business Accepts Payments?" was first published on Small Business Trends

4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Productivity

If I wanted to learn to hit a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, I wouldn’t ask Martha Stewart for advice. I also wouldn’t ask Derek Jeter to teach me how to make a soufflé. With all the crazy tasks I face each day, it made sense to me to observe the super productive people I know and see what makes them so efficient. Here’s what I learned:

How to Boost Your Productivity

1. Take Care of Your Body

Surprised that the first item on my list isn’t having the latest time management software? It turns out that there’s an even stronger connection between our physical health and our productivity than most of us realize. If we don’t get enough sleep, our work suffers. If we don’t get enough exercise, our minds don’t focus as well as they could.Making sure you sleep well, exercise, and eat a healthy diet is your first step toward being more productive.

2. Make Great Lists

I’ve always been a list-maker, but I’ve seriously upped my game after observing some strategies used by highly efficient people. It’s not enough just to jot down all the stuff you need to do; you also need a plan for prioritizing. I code each task to indicate which items generate revenue, which make my clients happy, and which help me develop systems to automatically accomplish tasks. Any jobs that don’t accomplish one of those three things get pushed to the bottom. Jobs that accomplish more than one are at the top of my to-do list. Find your own strategy for establishing priorities.

3. Delegate. We. Can’t. Do. It. All.

Assuming you’ve taken the time to hire great employees, then you absolutely must empower them. You may have to cede some control, but let your staff work to their strengths and free you up to do the big picture stuff. Think of it this way, if an employee accomplishes a task for your company, then your business still benefits, even if — especially if — you don’t have to personally handle it. When you have every member of your team (including yourself) working efficiently and profitably, then you’re even more effective.

4. Take Time for Yourself

I can’t count the number of entrepreneurs who’ve burned out because they failed to dedicate some time to themselves and their families. If you miss every single one of your kid’s basketball games and special events, then what are you really working for? Carve out family time and jealously protect it. When you recharge your batteries by spending time with your partner, your family, and your friends, you’ll find yourself much more focused and prepared to work when you need to. Don’t let your company consume your life.

One bonus strategy I’ve discovered is that super productive people take the time to evaluate their productivity. I put reminders in my calendar a couple of times each year to reflect on how my companies run and what I can do to accomplish more with less effort. After all, being the most productive doesn’t mean being the busiest. Improving productivity makes your time and energy count for even more.

Meter Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Productivity" was first published on Small Business Trends

5 Website Google Violations To Avoid

For website owners and/or managers, there are many paths for online marketing and optimization. From SEO to PPC and content marketing to social media marketing, there is certainly no shortage of ways through which to achieve your goals. However, those options and opportunities for your website come with rules that you have to play by, and if you don’t, you could find your website in hot water.

If you’re reading this and what I’m saying applies to you, then there’s a good chance Google is your search engine of choice for marketing and optimization. In regards to SEO and general website management, Google plays by the rules they’ve carefully developed and continue to evolve over time. The guidelines Google has for website management keep the focus on providing the best experience and information possible for users while also preventing any one website or brand from cheating their way to the top.

Beware Google Violations

That being said, there are many instances in which businesses end up on Google’s bad side or with a penalty without doing so intentionally. You’ve probably heard horror stories of this happening to website owners, seeing a drastic plummet in rankings overnight or realizing they’ve fallen victim to an algorithm update and earned a penalty. Such penalties can severely hurt a website or business, as they can negatively impact traffic, ranking, and performance. In my experience, I’ve seen plenty of websites from clients that were completely unaware they’d done anything to get on Google’s bad side in the first place.

While there’s a long list of things that can get your website slapped with a penalty or red flagged by Google, there tends to be a few common ways that businesses end up in that position. Check them out below, and ensure that you’re actively taking steps to prevent these slip-ups.

Common Ways a Website Gets in Trouble

Black Hat SEO

One of the single most common issues that gets website in trouble is Black Hat SEO. This includes shady practices like cloaking, keyword stuffing, hidden text, using link farms, and much more. In short, black hat SEO practices try and skirt around the rules to get SEO results in half the time. As I’ve said before, there are no short cuts when it comes to SEO, and any practice that tries to take such a shortcut will very likely get you in a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, some businesses hire what they think is a reputable SEO company and later find out that they were doing black hat SEO for their website after being caught by Google. As a rule of thumb, website owners and managers should familiarize themselves with what black hat SEO is so they can spot it early if it’s coming from an SEO provider or avoid it altogether.

Duplicate Content

Many website owners and managers don’t realize what a problem having duplicate content is. This is especially true for e-commerce websites with hundreds of product listing pages, as it can be difficult to come up with unique content over and over again. However, in the eyes of Google, duplicate content directly equates to low-quality or less useful information for users. It’s a labor of love, but the copy on your website should be well written and unique on every page.

Excessive Guest Blogging

Google just recently issued a warning about abusing guest posting in order to gain links. To be clear, guest posting is by no means a black hat or shady strategy. However, having an article published across many different sites or guest posting low-quality content is considered a violation of Google distributor guidelines and should be avoided at all costs. For bloggers especially, it’s important to focus on building relationships that open up valuable guest posting opportunities. The posts you guest blog should be your best work and in no way reflective of spammy or less useful content, or Google will eventually catch up with you.

Slow Page Speed/Poorly Performing Site

This matters a lot, because Google regularly crawls sites and accounts for how functional and accessible they are. Having a slow page speed, not being mobile friendly, or having a difficult to navigate site shows Google that your site isn’t the best option for users to find in their search results. By now we know that page speed, mobile friendliness, and ease of website crawling are factored into algorithms. Checking to see how your website performs through user testing and testing page speed are both things website owners should check on if they haven’t already.

Hacked Websites

Security is a big factor for Google, because they want to know that user information is secure on the websites they visit. Hacked websites are up 32% in the past year, posing a significant threat to the performance and success of websites as well as the security of users. Securing your website is an important and necessary step all webmasters must take if they intend to be successful on Google. From simple practices like implementing two-step authentication to purchasing more advanced security packages, it’s in your interest to make your website security airtight to avoid a penalty from Google.

Sinking Ship Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "These 5 Violations will Sink your Website with Google" was first published on Small Business Trends

America Exporting Rice to China?

Trade negotiators reached an initial deal to sell American rice in China for the first time ever, the Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

America Exporting Rice to China?

A deal to open Chinese markets to rice grown in the U.S. has been in the works for more than a decade, but agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says it’s finally coming to fruition.

“This is another great day for U.S. agriculture and, in particular, for our rice growers and millers, who can now look forward to gaining access to the Chinese market,” Perdue said in a statement. “This market represents an exceptional opportunity today, with enormous potential for growth in the future.”

China is the world’s largest producer of rice, but it is also the largest consumer. The country imported almost 5 million tons of rice last year, mostly from Vietnam, Thailand and other Asian nations.

The U.S. and China reached an agreement on the process for ensuring the safety of imported American rice in January 2016, a “more complicated and detailed than any other rice protocol in the world,” Dow Brantley

The announcement comes after trade talks between the Chinese and U.S. officials took a disappointing turn. At the end of the high-level trade talks Wednesday, the U.S. was only able to claim that “China acknowledged our shared objective to reduce the trade deficit which both sides will work cooperatively to achieve,” but the two countries could not agree on solutions to the $347 billion trade deficit, the Wall Street Journal reports. (RELATED: US-China Trade Talks Falter As Relations Spiral)

China allowed U.S. beef imports last month for the first time in 13 years, in exchange for the U.S. allowing imports of cooked poultry products.

Rice Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Good News for Other Exporters? U.S. Makes Deal to Sell Rice to China" was first published on Small Business Trends