LiftForward, Inc. Announces: Microsoft expands Surface Membership into Surface Plus for Business

LiftForward, the leading Hardware as a Service platform provider, announced today that its partnership with Microsoft has expanded.  The former subscription program Surface Membership has been rebranded to Surface Plus for Business and will be available to businesses across the US.  With Surface Plus for Business, customers will always have the latest technology as there is an upgrade feature to the newest models upon their release.  With Surface Plus, businesses, schools and government entities receive the device, warranty, support, training, and software all for one low monthly price. Customers can purchase Surface Plus for Business by visiting any of Microsoft’s physical stores in US or online.      

From a recent survey, business customers cited the bundle of goods and services for a low monthly price combined with the ability to upgrade without worrying about disposing of the devices as the key drivers to their satisfaction with the program.  In fact, over 83% of the participants in the survey plan to upgrade when a new device is released or continue in the program at the end of the term.  The program attracts businesses from a broad spectrum of industries and companies ranging in size from small businesses to public companies to government entities.  More details can be found at www.microsoft.com/surfaceplusforbusiness.  
Since the introduction of the subscription program, the lifetime value of Microsoft Surface consumers has increased substantially and the average order size is 3 times greater than outright purchases.  Jeffrey Rogers, CEO of LiftForward, said, "Millennials have spoken and they would rather not own assets that previous generations considered personal items.   The trend is clear; LiftForward exists to help manufacturers introduce subscription products to their customers.”

How to Host an Office Holiday Gift Exchange

HappyHoliday.png

 

The holidays are here and its time to start thinking about how your business will celebrate this year (if you haven't already). You can invite everyone out for dinner, host a happy hour at a local bar or perhaps cater lunch one day. Consider also having employees participate in a gift exchange, it’s a great way for team members to get in the holiday spirit and even share a few laughs over some gifts. 





The Basics of a White Elephant Gift Exchange
A White Elephant Gift Exchange is a popular holiday game that includes a healthy dose of competition to walk away with the best gift. This gift exchange can be played by a lot of different rules, or none at all. It can be simple or complex.

Select a budget
Whether it’s $5, $10 or $20 give participants a max budget of what to spend for this holiday exchange, this way no one person is stuck with a lump of coal while another is polishing their diamond. Just make sure everyone brings their gift wrapped, half the fun is guessing who bought what gift to the party.

Pick a theme
You can have no theme and let imaginations run wild or your can make it easy for participants by picking a theme, feel free to get as specific or as vague as you want. Here are some of our favorite ideas. 

Favorite Kitchen Gadgets
we all have that one gizmo that helps make cooking,
baking or grilling easier, let the team share theirs.

Hand Made Anything
from friendship bracelet to paint on canvas let your teams
creativity shine with a handmade theme.

Gag Gifts  
whether it’s a pin cushion doll or a passive aggressive coffee
mug this theme is a great way to have your team’s personality
and sense of humor shine through.

Re-Gift It
we’ve all gotten a gift or two that we really didn’t need or
want, this is a great way for your team to clean out their closet
and get in the holiday spirit! Have everyone bring in one
unwanted item that they’ve been gifted to throw into the pool.

Draw names
Have everyone draw names from a hat to determine what order they’ll be picking their gift in. Or the organizer can decide in advance the order everyone will take their turn.

How to play
Once everyone is ready to begin have the first person select their gift from the pool and open it, making sure everyone can see the gift. When the next player goes they can either pick an unwrapped gift or steal the previous player’s gift. If a player got their gift stolen they can either, choose a new gift or steal from someone else. At the end the first person has an option of either keeping their gift, or stealing someone elses.

Variations
There’s no wrong or right way to play, so feel free to make it your own. Some common variations involve limiting the number of times a gift can be stolen or a person can be stolen from. You can also choose not to let the first person steal another player’s gift at the end of the swap. Another fun way to play is by doing a Left-Right story where participants sit in a circle with a gift and pass it left or right, when the story ends that’s the gift they keep. Here’s a great story you can use of Lefty the White Elephant.

 

Whether you call it Dirty Santa, Yankee Swap or Rob Your Neighbor this popular holiday gift swapping game is the perfect way to help you and your team to get into the holiday (and giving) spirit.  How will you and your business be celebrating this year?

Microsoft (MSFT) news recap: Xbox at E3, HoloLens, enterprise security, and more

Microsoft news recap is a new weekly feature highlighting the top Microsoft news stories of the past week. Sit back, grab some coffee, and enjoy the read!

Microsoft doesn’t necessarily need to be recognized by third parties as a visionary company, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. In their latest “magic quadrant” regarding Enterprise Mobility Management, Gartner decided to rank Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite as a “visionary” among its peers, showing an exemplary completeness of vision paired with a fair competence in its ability to execute. While it showed room for improvement, the placement on Gartner’s quadrant definitely served as a strong pat on the back for Microsoft.

Speaking of the Enterprise Mobility Suite, cyber security company Lookout has announced this past week that it has partnered with Microsoft to integrate its Lookout Mobile Threat Protection with the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite. According to Lookout SVP Worldwide Field Operations Michael McBride, this partnership is set to “enhance enterprise mobile security and enable enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation.”

E3 is coming, and Microsoft is getting ready to blow all of our minds. Between new consoles, new peripherals, and new games, we know that the Xbox brand is going to be doing some amazing things this year, and it’s all going to kick off with a strong showing at E3 2016. If you’re anywhere near as excited as we are, you should check out our overview of everything that you can expect from Microsoft gets on stage for their E3 keynote. In short, we are expecting a new Xbox One model and perhaps other surprises.

HoloLens is making its way into the hands of eager developers, slowly but surely. The third wave of HoloLens developer kits has been shipped out, making yet another group of happy app developers waiting for its arrival like kids on Christmas. With the public release of HoloLens still seeming somewhat far on the horizon, it’s especially encouraging to see that Microsoft is stepping up their production and distribution of these developer kits.

Keeping in theme with its name as a generally green and progressive company, Microsoft is partnering up with The Nature Conservancy – a company that specializes in the study of the ocean, and analyzes that data to see just how it affects our lives. Microsoft has contributed $500,000 in cash and technological investments to the Conservancy’s Mapping Ocean Wealth project, which aims to figure out just how underwater habitats benefit people.

In collaboration with the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT), Microsoft is enabling the tax authority in Mexico to bring simplified taxes and increased government revenue to the country. Taxpayers in Mexico automatically have their wages reported to the SAT, collected via the Azure Cloud. Even their deductible business purchases are automatically routed to the collection of information that inevitably comes back around during tax season.

Microsoft has just launched a series of new payment plans to encourage businesses to incorporate their Surface line of devices into their day-to-day operations. The plans appear to be open to both large companies and individual business owners, however, approval for each plan will come down to the financial agency, LiftForward.

Read more...

LiftForward clinches $100m in debt capital

By Ryan Weeks on 16th November 201

Small business lending platform LiftForward raises $100m in funding round facilitated by Monroe Capital.

LiftForward, a small business lender for manufacturers, distributors and retailers, has nabbed another $100m in debt capital. Monroe Capital LLC, a senior and junior debt and equity co-investments specialist in the US, acted as sole lead and administrative agent for the fundraise.

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Does Your Business Need an Employee Handbook?

Does Your Business Need an Employee Handbook-.png

As a small business putting together an employee handbook might seem a bit silly and time intensive, especially if you have a small team where it’s easier to just let every one know what the policies and procedures are. But what about when your team starts to grow, or you get asked for the 5th time what the vacation policy is, it might be a good idea to have a document or manual employees can refer to, even if it’s just for basic questions. Your employee handbook can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is used to inform employees about their job responsibilities and the expectations set forth by you, their employer. It outlines the rights of the employee and the legal obligations of the employer. The purpose of the employee handbook is to protect the business as much as the employees and helps clarify what both parties should expect. The tone of the book can be as serious or as fun as you want and is a great way to help establish the kind of company culture you want to achieve in your business.

There’s lots of resources out there that can help you put together an employee handbook, we love this one from the SBA, or you can check out these 6 examples of inspiring employee handbooks. You can also find guides on federal labor laws at osha.gov and small-business resources and contact information for state labor agencies at dol.gov.

What should you include?

Besides the general legal jargon, policy on discrimination, harassment and federal labor laws here’s a few things you should include.

Company and Culture

  • Tell employees a little bit about the company and how it got started.
  • Share the company mission and how you will serve your customers, community and employees.
  • Is your organization flat with just a few managers to guide projects and teams? Or is there a formal hierarchy system in place.
  • Is Taco Tuesday or Thirsty Thursdays a tradition? Maybe there’s a yearly ski trip or a day at the beach. Include it in the handbook.
  • Are suits and ties required for meetings or can you wear cargo shorts and flip flops everyday; be sure to cover the dress code to avoid any fashion faux pas.
  • Is work life balance an important part of your company, this is the place to include it. Talk about what the typical office hours are and what your policy is on checking emails after work hours.
  • Do you offer perks like snacks in the office, a bike rack for those that commute on two wheels or office yoga, let employees know what amenities the office will offer.
  • Do you have yearly performance reviews? Whether they’re peer reviews or done by a manager, it’s important for employees to know how they’ll be evaluated.

Paid Time Off

  • How many vacation/personal/sick days does each employee get?
  • Does the amount of vacation time increase after X amount of time of employment.
  • How much notice must be given to take a vacation or personal day.
  • What is the policy on sick days, do they need to ensure there’s coverage, will they need to provide a doctors note after 5 days.
  • What holidays does the company observe, what is the policy if the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, will employees get Monday off if the holiday falls on a Tuesday, or Friday off it’s on a Thursday.
  • You should also mention family medical leave, jury duty, bereavement and other types of leave.

Benefits

  • Does the company offer health/vision/dental insurance?
  • Is this available to all employees or just full time?
  • Are they eligible for insurance right away or is there a waiting period.
  • What is the process for adding on a beneficiary for health insurance.
  • Does your company offer a 401k, is there a company match.
  • Do you offer stock options in the company to employees, at what point are they eligible.

As you can see there's no limit to what you should or could include in your company's employee handbook, and it doesn't have to have all the answers but it should be a good place for any new employees to start when they have a basic question about the company. And our last piece of advice, have a lawyer look it over, it can help your business avoid potential lawsuits involving employee behavior that is or isn’t outlined in the handbook.

The What Not to Do Guide for Social Media

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Image via Canva

There’s a lot of advice out there on why your company needs a [insert name of newest social media channel here], when the best time of day to post and how to best hashtag your tweets. It can be hard to keep up with the trends, advice and best practices for each channel. 

 

So here’s 5 things you should definitely not do when it comes to social media.


 

1.     Incomplete profiles
You registered for the account, made a post and then stopped. If you register for an account make sure it’s populated with the right information and relevant content, otherwise you run the risk of looking unprofessional. Make sure your contact information is up to date, your logo is displayed and that everything is spelled right. 

2.     Fear of missing out
Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc, etc, etc. There’s no shortage of social media platforms but that doesn’t mean you need to join them all. Pick the 2-3 most relevant for your business and your customers and focus your attention there. Your time is valuable and shouldn’t be spent updating your companies LinkedIn account when all of your customers are on Facebook and Instagram. It’s all about picking the right social media channel for your site.

3.     One post to rule them all
It might seem easy to sign up for a Hootsuite or Buffer account and then just post the same content across all the channels, but this is the quickest way to get people to unfollow you or find you irritating. Twitter is best for short one liners, Pinterest for pictures and short descriptions, Facebook for longer posts or industry news, Instagram for photos or quick promo videos and tutorials. Some posts are worth sharing on all your accounts, some are really only appropriate for one.

4.     Self-promotion is key
Self-promotion is NOT key. If all you do is post pictures of your new line of products you’ll soon find that your fans think of your posts as the equivalent of white noise and then ignored. It’s important to vary the content you post so that it’s relevant and engaging to your followers. Post articles you find interesting, trends in the industry, upcoming events that may be of interest, not just the same 10 images of your Spring line.

5.     Consistency is everything
The key to long term success when it comes to social media is consistency. You want to use social media to create interest in your company and products, you can’t do that if your posting frequency can best be described as “once in the blue”.  Setup an editorial calendar or guide for yourself and then pre-plan what you’ll post when so that you can keep your community engaged and your company top of mind. 

How to Fix Errors on Your Credit Report

HowToFixYourCreditReport

Since 2012 every American has been entitled to receive their personal credit report for free once a year from each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Yet 35% of people don’t check their credit reports and according to the FTC 1 in 4 consumers found at least one error in the credit report. As a small business or a startup your personal credit is just as important as your business credit, so it’s important that both are accurate and up to date. These errors while small and inconsequential can be the difference between a great rate on your next business loan or line of credit or just an OK one. But what do you do if you find an error on your report.

 

1.     If the error is account related, such as for a late payment, payment history or delinquent account your best course of action is to go to the lender, credit card or bank directly. By contacting the lender directly you’re cutting out the middle man and won’t have to wait for the credit bureau to contact the lender on your behalf. If you find that your name is spelled wrong, or the address shown is incorrect you should reach out to the credit bureaus directly.

2.     You’ll also want to file a dispute with each of the credit bureau’s showing the error. While dealing with the lender is the fastest and easiest way to correct an error on your report filing disputes with the credit bureaus will give you an extra layer of protection if the lender doesn’t follow through on your request. In order to start an investigation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act you must file a dispute with a credit bureau.

Equifax
Equifax Disputes
All disputes with Equifax are handled online.

Experian
Experian Disputes
All disputes with Experian are handled online.

TransUnion
TransUnion Disputes
1-800-916-8800
TransUnion Disputes
2 Baldwin Place, P.O. BOX 1000
Chester, PA 19022

3.     Lenders have 30 days, sometimes 45 to investigate a dispute, once an investigation is completed you will be notified whether the information was verified as being correct, was modified in some way or was not verified and has been removed from the report. You should also be proactive and follow up with any pending disputes, it will help ensure your issue is resolved in a timely manner. When you have a dispute pending you should wait to apply for credit. This will ensure that any credit decisions made about you are based on the most accurate information available.

4.     If the investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute you can ask that a brief statement summarizing the dispute be included in your report. This can be helpful when applying for a loan, even if the dispute didn’t go in your favor. Not that this option is only available to you if you filed a dispute with a credit bureau, you won’t be able to provide a statement if you filed a dispute with just the lender.

NYC Entrepreneurs Offer Up Some Seriously Valuable Advice

It takes a lot to make it in NYC — but the city is full of opportunities if you’re ready to seize them. We spoke to seven entrepreneurs about building a business from the ground up in the Big Apple. Here’s what they told us.

On empowerment:

“A good entrepreneur needs to empower its senior managers to step up and make decisions, including hiring and staffing of resources. I do what I can to hire the best people in the country and get out of the way.”

—Jeffrey S. Rogers, 46, president and CEO of LiftForward, a marketplace loan platform which provides loans to small businesses

Read more...

How to Celebrate National Boss/Employee Exchange Day in Your Business

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Image via Canva

The Monday after Labor Day is a little known holiday called National Boss/Employee Exchange Day. On this day employees and bosses can see how the other half spends their working hours; whether it be tackling the piles of paperwork or dealing with that awkward customer. National Boss/Employee Exchange Day is more than just fun, it’s a great way to exchange ideas as well. Seeing the other side of the business and how it works is a great way to educate team members on how much time and effort goes into both jobs.

Even if a manager was once in the trenches, chances are a few things have changed since then, so it’ll be helpful to go back and touch base. By living a day in the life of a customer service representative, social media manager, line cook or whatever other role they decide to take on managers will truly be able to see and understand the challenges employees face. There’s a lot to be gained from seeing first hand how line-level responsibilities are affecting productivity.

Switching for the day can be beneficial to both sides. An undertaking of this nature can really help employees and bosses understand the duties, responsibilities and challenges that each have to deal with on a daily basis.  By swapping for the day it might reveal processes that are causing problems for workers further upstream in the process or vice versa. Bosses will be able to see first hand how procedures they implemented are slowing down production and employees may be able to contribute ideas on how to help reduce the pile of paperwork on the boss’s desk.

Swapping for the day may be easy to pull off with a team of 5 or 10 or even 20, but what if you’re a company of 50. It may not be practical to switch roles, so consider using this holiday as a way of exchanging ideas. Set up a town hall or round table type meeting in the morning or during lunch; be sure to bring food as ideas flow much better when there’s food involved. Ask employees to talk about some of the challenges they’re facing, what responsibilities are taking up a large portion of their day or what improvements they can suggest to make the work flow smoother. Share some of the challenges that come with being a manager, the kinds of tasks that take up your day and process you’d like to improve upon. You never know, someone may be an expert in content blogging or have a cousin that would be perfect for a sales role. Be sure to finish up the meeting with some Q&A time, allowing employees to voice any concerns they may have or maybe just ask about the companies next holiday party.

Having this renewed outlook on both sides can be a source of some great productivity ideas that can benefit everyone. Now the only question is, how will you pick who gets to be boss for a day. 

Advice from a Loan Underwriter: Why You Need to Build Your Business Credit Now

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Image via Canva

Like your personal credit score, your business credit score is how lenders, creditors and suppliers will determine if you’re a worthy candidate for a loan, line of credit or favorable payment terms on your next shipment of materials. One mistake entrepreneurs make is thinking about their business credit only when they’re ready to apply for a loan but business credit should be thought of long before you actually need it.

While mid sized and larger companies that deal with banks and suppliers on a regular basis will naturally start to develop a credit profile from their day to day interactions, smaller companies and soloentrepreneurs might find that after several years in business they have a pretty bare bones credit profile. Developing a good credit profile takes more than just opening a business checking account and printing out business cards; you’ll want to open up a credit account whether it be a no fee line of credit or a business credit card from your local bank. By opening up a credit account, even though you may not need it, you’ll be building up your business credit profile for when you do need a loan.

Business Credit 101

You probably know all about your personal credit score, what it makes it go up and what makes it go down. What about your business credit score, unlike the highly regulated field of personal credit, business credit is still a little bit of a mystery to most small business owners. Thankfully both scores serve the same purpose and look at a lot of the same factors, so all the good stuff that you’re doing to improve your personal credit will also help your business score too. 

There’s a few key differences between personal and business credit scores to keep in mind. Unlike personal credit scores, business credit reports and scores are not private, any company or person can pay to see your business credit report. Unlike personal credit report, where you’re entitled to one free credit report from the three major credit bureaus every year, you’ll need to get your wallet out to see you business credit report. The scoring system also varies, business credit scores range from 0 to 100, with a good score in the 80-100 range. What goes into a score varies from one credit bureau to another but it will include things like:

·      How long your company has been in business

·      How many accounts, if any went to collections

·      Did the business file for bankruptcy

·      How many credit accounts did the business apply for

·      How much of available credit is being utilized

·      Number of accounts that are 30 or more days late

When business is good a good credit profile can help you get a favorable interest rate on a loan to grow your business or get better terms from your suppliers. When business is in a downturn a good credit profile can help you borrow money when you need it most. 

To find out how LiftForward can help you and your business grow with our suite of loan products contact us today!

The Difference Between a Hard and Soft Credit Inquiry

When it comes to credit reports and scores it's easy to get confused, the entire process seems to be veiled in an air of mystery. So today we're tackling the topic of credit inquiries. There are two kinds of inquiries that lenders can use to determine your credit worthiness, a hard or soft inquiry. Both can be used by lenders, employers or suppliers to view your credit score, though only one can be used to make a credit decision. 

 

 

 

What is a soft inquiry?

If you’ve ever received a credit card offer in the mail from a bank you’ve never done business with chances are they ran a soft pull on your credit. Soft pulls are also done when you view your own credit report, as part of an employee background check or when a landlord checks your credit as part of a rental application. Soft inquiries occur often without your permission, but don’t worry that won’t affect your credit score.

What is a hard inquiry?

A hard inquiry occurs when a vendor, supplier or lender needs to make a credit decision, such as when you apply for a credit card, mortgage, business loan or to finance a car purchase. A hard pull on your credit will affect your credit score and can only be done with your permission. The inquiry becomes a part of your credit and will be listed at the bottom of the report along with any other hard inquiries that have been done. Hard inquiries can lower your credit score and generally appear on your credit report for two years. If you have great credit and want to apply for a credit card to take advantage of a sign up bonus, then losing a few points due to a hard inquiry won’t be a big deal. But if you have borderline credit you may want to think twice before applying, especially if you plan on taking out a loan or mortgage in the near future.

How to remove a hard inquiry.

If there’s a hard inquiry on your credit report you didn’t give permission for or maybe a lender ran your credit twice, simply call or write to the company explaining that you didn’t authorize the inquiry and tell them you would like to have it removed. You can also file a dispute with each of the credit bureaus to have the inquiry removed.

If a company or financial institution lets you know they’ll be checking your credit be sure to ask them whether this will be a soft or hard inquiry. Some inquiries could be either a soft inquiry or a hard inquiry depending on the company and how they process the transaction. 

The Pros and Cons of Shared Office Space

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Image via Canva

If you live and work in a big metropolitan city, chances are you’ve come across a WeWork, Hive, Greendesk, Wix Lounge or Office Nomad co-working space before, and it’s no surprise as there are dozens of options in New York City alone. Shared office spaces give small business and entrepreneurs the benefits of office space in some of the most expensive neighborhoods and buildings for a price that’s affordable with the added benefit of perks like free coffee, beer and even arcade games; however, shared office spaces aren’t right for everyone or every business.

 

 

Pro: All your office needs for one price.

When working in a shared office space you don’t have to worry about setting up Wi-Fi networks, hiring a cleaner, refilling the soap dispenser, or ever running out of printer ink. Everything is taken care of by a team of community members for one flat monthly price. Shared office spaces also offer month to month plans, so you never have to worry about being locked into a year long lease if you find that you need more space or would rather work out of your apartment.

Con: Distractions abound.

One of the biggest downsides to sharing office space is the lack of privacy. Whether it’s glass walls, cubicles, or open desks your certain to overhear a conversation or get annoyed by your neighbor’s music selection. When you’re surrounded by dozens of people it can be easy to get distracted by a noise or someone walking by, especially since you’re in an office of small businesses where everyone is working on their own projects and keeping their own hours.

Pro: Never worry about signing for your Amazon order.

When your office is in a shared space like WeWork, there’s always someone at the front desk to sign for your packages if your having a lunch meeting or if you’re wrapping up a phone call. It’s one less thing to worry about as you grow your business.

Con: Protecting your privacy.

Depending on the nature of your work and how sensitive your information is, you may want to take extra care with client information, especially if the only thing between you and your office mates is a glass wall. Some well placed posters or the use of a conference room will help solve that problem, but it is something you’ll have to be diligent about.

Pro: There’s lot’s (lot’s!) of perks.

From free coffee and disposable biodegradable utensils to gym discounts and adult camp weekends, the perks offered at shared office spaces around the country can be pretty varied. So don’t hesitate to relax with a glass of beer while you take advantage of the vintage pinball machine.   

Con: Be sure to book your conference room in advance.

Some shared work spaces have one conference room and you never have to worry about grabbing it for a quick meeting, others have a dozen and they’re booked up to a week in advance. This varies from office to office as some of your fellow entrepreneurs may never have a need for a phone booth or conference room and others may use them every day. How much of an issue this is will depend on the space your renting, the size of your team, and how often you even need them.

Pro: They have better furniture.

If the perks weren’t enough to get you into the office everyday, the stylish décor, funky couches, and cool conference rooms might do the trick. Whether you’re a millennial or baby boomer you’ll find something to love in the fun designs that are bound to motivate and inspire.

Con: Beware flu season.

If you’ve ever worked in an office you know that there’s going to be a time when everyone has one bug or another that’s going around. It’s no different with a shared office space and in some ways it could even be worse due to all the shared common areas that you don’t normally find in the typical office job. Be sure to stock up on antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.

Pro: And the best reason of all.

The networking!!! From marketing companies, to technology companies and interior design, the variety of companies you’ll come across is an opportunity not to be missed. Someone may have just the skill set you need to get that project done or knows someone that can help you make a sale or fix that bug in your code. You’re surrounded by dozens of entrepreneurial minded people, strike up a conversation while getting coffee or at one of the many networking events you never know what will happen.

How to Use Pokemon GO to Lure Customers to Your Door

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Image via Canva

You may have noticed a group of kids (or adults) wandering around in circles, occasionally exclaiming and pointing their phones at a point in the distance in excitement. If you have, then your witnessing the newest phenomena in mobile gaming, Pokemon GO! Pokemon GO is a clever hybrid game where the real world is combined with the digital world in fun way that encourages players to go outside and explore. 24 hours after it’s release it's officially the biggest game of 2016, with more active users then Supercell’s heavily promoted Clash Royale, Twitter and even SnapChat. Pokemon GO has tapped into a market that appeals to kids of all ages. Kids love the game for the ease and the challenge, with 729 Pokemon characters the game will keep you hooked for quite a while. Parents love the game cause it gets kids out of the house and walking around. There’s also the nostalgia factor, Pokemon made its big splash in the US in the 90’s, so parents remember trading cards in the playground with friends and battling on Gameboys. But the real winners of Pokemon GO are small business.

In the world of Pokemon GO real life locations are tagged as either Pokestops or Pokegyms, areas where people converge on in an effort to collect items, capture Pokemon and battle other players. This is a boon for many small business that are located around these way points as it brings in tons of foot traffic without having to spend hundreds or thousands on marketing campaigns. While Niantic Labs has plans to introduce sponsored in game locations, some business are using the games lure feature now to drive traffic to their business.  

Utilizing Pokemon GO for your business is easy, here’s what you need to do.

  1. Download the game. See if there’s a gym or Pokestop near you.
  2. If there’s not don’t worry Niantic will soon have sponsored in game locations allowing you to add your business to the map. 
  3. Play the game, at least until you get to level 8 (this level allows you to drop a lure).  
  4. Drop a lures (or 10). 
  5. Wait for the Pokemon and trainers to come to you.

Dropping a lure is the easiest and cheapest way to bring foot traffic to your door. $1 in in-app purchases will get you one lure, good for 30 minutes of Pokemon catching. So for $20 a day you can have 10 hours of lures, ensuring a steady stream of foot traffic. And business across the country are already taking advantage. Pizza shops can have a special deal on a slice and soda for Pokemon trainers. Coffee shops can offer Wi-Fi for customers that are there to hunt for the elusive Zapdos and Mew. How will you use lures to lure customers to your door?

5 LinkedIn Groups for Entrepreneurs

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Image via Canva

LinkedIn is for more than just networking or keeping up with business contacts, it’s also the ultimate resource for industry news, advice and a great way to land new clients. By becoming an active member of a LinkedIn group you can help to increase awareness of your business and build credibility in your field, a win-win for any business owner. Posting interesting content, responding to questions and offering insight into industry trends are just a few things you can do to make LinkedIn work harder for you.

1.     On Startups - The Community For Entrepreneurs 

On Startups is one of the largest groups on LinkedIn geared towards entrepreneurs, with over 500,000 members and new content posted all the time this is a great resource for any entrepreneur looking to start, grow, fund, scale, manage or market a startup company. You’ll find a lot of great content being posted by moderators and members, but don’t skip over the comments you’ll find a lot of great advice there.

2.     TED: Ideas Worth Spreading (Unofficial)

You haven’t heard one of the many TED Talks that are available online, you are doing yourself a great disservice. TED Talks are engaging, funny and informative. The quick 30 minute videos are a great to learn about what’s going on in the world of technology, entertainment and design and are the perfect way to get through your morning commute. Due to it’s nature not every post will be business related, but with a community of over 600,000 members there’s bound to be something relevant and interesting for you every day.

3.     Harvard Business Review

If you follow LiftForward on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn you’d know that we love the content, articles and studies published by the Harvard Business Review. With HBR you can find engaging articles that discuss best practices, new business insights and trends in management, marketing and hiring. It's the place to go to for new and alternative ways of thinking about your business.

4.     Social Media Marketing

In today’s world of hyper connectivity it’s hard to own a business without a social media account of one kind or another, but how to keep up with all the best practices, trends and updates? With over 1 Million members this is one of the most active groups on LinkedIn and the most active social media marketing group on LinkedIn by far. New content is posted all the time and will keep you up to date on all things Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more.

5.     Small Biz Forum

Small Biz Forum is a great resource for the small business community to “share resources and help each other improve their businesses.” At just over 10,000 members it’s big enough that there’s always new content and conversations you can join but small enough that you can start to build a rapport with some of the members by sharing new content and commenting on other’s posts.

 

If the above groups aren't what you're looking for, here are a few tips for finding the right LinkedIn group for you.

Decide what kind of group you want to join.

Are you looking to establish your credentials as an industry leader, learn more about your field or maybe keep up to date on social media best practices, your answer to this question will help you determine what kinds of groups you should be joining.

Search and then search some more.

Think about what you’re looking for and play with different keyword options in the LinkedIn groups directory page. A search for “marketing” will result in thousands of results, while small business marketing will result in the much more manageable 1,000 results. You’ll need to go through the results to find the right group for you, thankfully there’s filter tools available to make it easier.

Look at your connections.

Another great way to find groups on LinkedIn is to see what groups your connections are a part of. Go to the LinkedIn profile of a colleague, friend or mentor and take a look at what groups they're a part of. There’s a good chance a few of them are related to your business.

 

For more small business information, or to learn how LiftForward can help your business contact us today!

 

4 Easy Ways to Market Your Business for the 4th of July

Most of us think of the 4th of July as the day America declared it’s independence and the day we get together with family and friends for the much loved tradition of BBQ’s, pool parties and fireworks. But the 4th of July is also a great time to market your small business and get yourself ready for the start of summer!

Embrace the Red, White and Blue

Holidays are a great time to get kitschy and embrace the holiday theme. So if you’re a restaurant consider offering a red, white and blue dish as a special for the holiday weekend. Some fun flower arrangements with red, white and blue dyed flowers would be great for a florist to embrace the holiday and show off your skills. If you have a clothing store go crazy with some fun decorations in patriotic colors and accessorize your window display with shirts or accessories that fit the theme. Furniture stores can also get on board, swap out those neutral pillows for a bright pop of red and trade out that classic painting with an Uncle Sam poster. There’s a lot you can do with what you have on hand and a little imagination, don’t forget to visit your local dollar store for some fun decorations that won’t break the bank.

Up Your Social Media Game

Social media and email marketing are your best ways to reach customers all year round, but as July 4th approaches start thinking about how you can personalize the experience for the holiday (and the rest of the summer). If you’re a restaurant promote a hashtag that diners can use when checking in, post photos the days leading up to the holiday weekend with the fun patriotic dishes you’ll have as specials for the weekend or share some quick and easy recipes they can make for their own BBQ. Nail saloons can showcase their skills with a brush by posting pictures of the fun and funky designs you can do in red, white and blue. When it comes to utilizing social media for the holidays all you have to do is let your fans, followers and customers know about any promotions or limited time items you have, keep an eye out for any trending hashtags and join the conversation to increase your reach.

Discounts and Freebies

It’s no secret that people love free stuff, consider giving out a small item that embraces that 4th of July spirit to customers over the holiday weekend. Some favorites of ours that won’t break the bank are fake tattoos, sunglasses or glow sticks. Don’t have the budget for giveaways consider offering a discount or special pricing for the holiday, if you’re a clothing retailer perhaps you can offer some items for $17.76 or 4 for $7 special on accessories. You can play with the date anyway you choose, just be sure to tweet about it and let your customers know about the specials and sales you'll be running.

Go Local

Whether it’s a parade, block party or town fair get involved in the holiday events your community is hosting. Consider setting up a booth or table to showcase your best products and get your name out there. Be sure to offer some kind of give away, can be as small as candy or bottles of water (with your name and logo on them) or a coupon inviting event goers to stop by your store. Don’t forget to post on social media where people can find you and special promotions you’ll be doing. Local events are great for networking and meeting new customers so get out there! 

Half of the high-paying jobs in America now require this skill

If terms like SQL, Python and JavaScript aren’t on your radar, employers may not be interested in hiring you.

Roughly half of the jobs in the top income quartile — defined as those paying $57,000 or more per year — are in occupations that commonly require applicants to have at least some computer coding knowledge or skill, according to an analysis of 26 million U.S. online job postings released this month by job market analytics firm Burning Glass and Oracle Academy, the philanthropic arm of Oracle focused on computer science education, in Redwood City, Calif. In simple terms, coders write the instructions that tell computers what to do; in-demand programming languages include SQL, Java, JavaScript, C# and Python.

This high number is thanks, in part, to the fact that it’s not just technology jobs that now require at least some coding knowledge, says Alison Derbenwick Miller, the vice president of Oracle Academy. “Computing has become a tool in every industry,” which means that coding knowledge is now needed for workers across fields, she says. Indeed, everyone from business people who work with data to designers and marketers who create websites to scientists who conduct research now need at least some coding knowledge.

 

Employers and employees — even those who aren’t in the technology field — say the same. Jake Lane, a growth analyst at lawn care company LawnStarter, says that “having some knowledge of coding is essential for job seekers these days,” as it can help them understand the tasks of — and work more effectively with — other departments, including their tech and engineering teams.

Angela Copeland, who majored in computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY but subsequently moved to a marketing career, agrees: “Although I transitioned away from computer programming and into marketing, having a coding background has really helped me. First, when I’ve worked on website projects, it’s easier for me to communicate directly with developers. In the end, this causes my projects to get done faster and more accurately.”

And Alex Barshai, a marketing specialist for metal recovery firm ElectroMetals, which has eight offices worldwide including in Dubai, Mumbai and St. Louis, says that while his company does not require potential employees to have outstanding coding skills, an understanding of how programming languages work provides a job seeker with clear advantage over the others thanks to the analytical skills you develop when you learn to code. (Apple AAPL, +0.41%   co-founder Steve Jobs — who once said, “Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer, should learn a computer language, because it teaches you how to think” — might have agreed.)

Other reasons that coding skills are so in demand: They can help workers “automate trivial tasks” and “hack their way to solutions others consider impossible,” says Mike Grassotti, the chief technology officer at small business loans company LiftForwardbased in New York.

Read more...

Microsoft Surface Membership Makes Devices Available With Monthly Installments For Small Businesses: Here's The Deal

June 8, 2016 - Microsoft discretely rolled out a Surface Membership Plan that helps small businesses purchase Surface hardware while avoiding costly one-time payments.

The financing options begin at $32.99 per month, which offers businesses "the latest Surface devices, accessories, support, and training." Older and current models, ranging from the Surface 3 to Surface 4 and Surface Book can be purchased within the new system. Microsoft says that, as novel models reach the shelves, a slew of free upgrades will be available.

The company seems to have taken a leaf out of Apple's iPhone Upgrade program, which landed last year and only two months ago received online support.

The Windows developer delivers a myriad of extra advantages to enterprise users who sign up for the Surface Membership. For example, businesses get setup, tech support in stores, personal training, Accidental Damage Protection and also a prolonged service plan.

The monthly payments are variable, and fluctuations are mostly due to the duration of the purchase and the model that is bought. The program allows small ventures to choose between payments that can last 18 months, 24 months or 30 months.

The most affordable purchase is buying a standard Surface Pro 3 over 30 months, which requires a montly payment of $33.

On the other end of the pricing spectrum, a professional Surface Book packing in a 1 TB hard drive, 16 GB RAM, an Intel i7 CPU and a dual graphics card will ask buyers to shell out $221 each month.

To put it into perspective, such a plan means that a Surface Book will cost you $3,978 at the end of the 30-month period. Should you opt for a two-year installment plan and zero bundled deals, the same Surface Book will empty your pockets by $3,448.

Those who like to live dangerously can opt out of the service plan and will get the Surface Book for only $3,199.

A 30-month installment for the affordable Surface 3 means that users will pay about $990 for the device.

Keep in mind that the payment plans are destined to help businesses adopt Microsoft's hardware. However, ventures can buy a single unit, if that suits their needs best. An extra detail is that before you can embark in the membership plan, your business must meet the criteria imposed by LiftForward, Microsoft's financing partner. All monthly payments and credit applications go through LiftForward.

All Surface devices come with Windows 10 or Windows 10 Pro pre-installed.

Read more at TechTimes.com

Microsoft's new payment plan makes Surface devices more affordable

June 8, 2016 - Microsoft has kicked off a new offering on its online store, with plans being made available to businesses who wish to purchase Surface devices – and perhaps a consumer offering will follow.

The Microsoft Surface Membership scheme breaks payments down to make them more manageable, with prices starting at $32.99 (around £23, AU$44) per month for the Surface 3 over in the US.

You'll get the Surface Pro 4 starting at $51.99 (around £36, AU$70) per month, and the Surface Book kicks off at $79.99 (around £55, AU$107) per month. Those are the most basic devices on the longest contract (30 months), naturally enough.

As well as spreading payments to make them more manageable, the scheme gives you the option to upgrade your device for free whenever Redmond releases new hardware.

Service plan and full support

The Surface Membership also gives you full phone support every day of the week, along with Microsoft's Business Extended Service Plan with Accident Damage Protection, and personal training in the use of Surface devices is also available. And you get discounts with Microsoft's online store as well.

Currently this scheme is only available in the US, but hopefully we'll see it arrive in the UK before too long, possibly once Microsoft has found a suitable finance partner (the company is using LiftForward over in the States). Naturally, those businesses wishing to avail themselves of the scheme will need to be approved by said finance company.

Note that these plans are for businesses only, and individual consumers aren't able to sign up – not at the moment anyway. However, some of the comments we've seen online are demanding a consumer offering along the same lines, so perhaps Redmond will consider this too, particularly if the business scheme takes off nicely.

Read more at TechRadar.com

Surface offered for $32.99/month with new Membership Plan

June 8, 2016- Microsoft quietly rolled out a new way for business customers to buy Surface hardware yesterday: theSurface Membership Plan.

Spotted first by Paul Thurrott, the scheme allows Surface hardware, from the Atom-powered Surface 3 all the way up to the Surface Book, to be bought on a monthly price plan. The plan also includes the Surface service plan with accidental damage protection, offering repair and replacement for dropped or damaged hardware, and some amount of personal training. Prices range from $32.99/month for a bottom spec Surface 3 bought over 30 months, up to $220.99/month for a top spec Surface Book bought over 18 months. This works out at a premium of about $400-$500 as compared to buying the hardware and service plan outright.

Read more at ArsTechnica.com