Small Business

The state of Illinois has decided to touch up their human rights laws, going several steps further than the existing federal regulations. Small businesses will have to abide, and as a result, the future of many companies is at stake.Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill that will take effect next July. According to the new bill businesses with fewer than 15 workers are no longer exempt from the Illinois Human Rights Act. Jim Bennett, the director of the Illinois Department of Human Rights, takes pride in this “fundamental piece of legislation,” providing protection for sexual harassment, disability, pregnancy, and other types of discrimination. Currently, the Illinois Human Rights Act only covers employers who employ 15 or more people for a minimum of 20 calendar weeks out of the year. The new proceedings will provide different requirements for the way claims are processed, decided, litigated, and ultimately, published. Also, discrimination prevention and training will become mandatory for many institutions. The new bill is only one of several human rights-related bills Pritzker has signed. Some other examples include the Workplace Transparency Act, requiring workers to use the Illinois Department of Human Rights sexual harassment prevention training program, or provide a similar alternative. Every year, employers will be required to report the number of judgments or rulings involving unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Furthermore, every bar and restaurant is required to implement sexual harassment prevention and training policies. The mandatory training, transparency, and prevention of this type of unlawful behavior is not the primary concern of small businesses, however. Even now, some discrimination protections bypass the 15-employee threshold and can be applied to small businesses. The bills, which are set to take effect in July of 2020 have raised some concerns because legal fees and settlements associated with the lawsuits could put some employers out of business. Mark Grant, the executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Illinois chapter, expressed concern over business owners having to close down due to potential lawsuits. Even a frivolous lawsuit, he claims, could cost businesses enough in legal fees to cause bankruptcy. Some businesses, however, will remain exempt from the law, including religious institutions, and companies which employ 15 workers or less for over 20 calendar weeks - affecting owners who hire seasonal help. 

By Andrea September 12,2019

According to recent research, rising healthcare costs are not sustainable for small business owners. They are open to a variety of options to alleviate the costs, including joining forces to advocate for their interests. The Commonwealth Fund has conducted a national survey of 500 small business employers. Industry experts and small business owners answered several questions via phone or through focus groups. The survey was carried out among businesses with 500 or fewer employees. As many as 37% of small business employers cited healthcare costs as their top concern, more challenging than the rising federal taxes, or attracting new quality employees. Most respondents (69%), claimed they only expected the issue to get worse. The smaller the business, the more burdensome the issue: the survey found that 45% of business owners with 2-25 employees claim the strain of healthcare costs is a major problem. On the other hand, 30% of these respondents estimated this was only a minor issue.  Despite their struggles with covering healthcare expenses, small business owners are reluctant to delegate the rising costs to employees. Less than half (48%) said they had raised employees’ deductibles and copays, and 25% demanded the workers should pay higher premiums. Additionally, 16% of employers have done away with dependent coverage in its entirety.  Researchers have found that small business owners are working towards alleviating the problem. In order to accomplish this goal, however, small businesses need policymakers to assist them in order to stay competitive and continue to employ millions of Americans in the future.  When it comes to alleviating healthcare costs, business owners are largely results-oriented, and support policies from across the political spectrum. Both regulatory and market-based solutions are acceptable for small business owners, as long as they curb healthcare costs.  Covering the rising cost of healthcare is a huge issue for small business owners, and many would resort to “Medicare for All” as one of the top solutions, according to the study.  About a third of respondents support some form of medicare: 34% actively support “Medicare for all,” and 35% are sturdily in favor of a Medicare or Medicaid buy-in plan. Finally, 38% of respondents strongly support the creation of a national, government-administered plan.  The study also indicated that half of the respondents strongly support price-cap regulations for patient’s out-of-pocket costs, while 56% are firmly in favor of policies forcing drug companies to post their list prices. On the other hand, as many as 48% of interviewees are in favor of reduced health insurance bureaucracy and regulations.  The one solution of particular interest is working together towards lowering the burden of healthcare costs. As many as 90% of respondents stated that they are willing to join forces in order to advocate for lower costs. A whopping 76% of interviewees are willing to join a business owners association to tackle this issue, and 59% would consider forming an organization to provide group coverage.  Finally, the survey confirmed that small business owners want the current state of affairs to change and are willing to work together and take pragmatic steps to make this happen. 

By Andrea September 12,2019

A recent report discovered that small businesses are leading the way in workforce investment and economic growth, despite resource constraints. Small businesses across the United States displayed a growing commitment to wage growth, workforce training, and healthcare - one of the biggest issues small business owners have to tackle.  Goldman Sachs surveyed 2,285 small business owners that graduated from their 10,000 Small Businesses program. The results have been published in a "Voice of Small Business in America: 2019 Insights Report," released on Sept. 5, 2019. The report was developed in partnership with Babson College. The now apparent success of small businesses might reinforce economic support for these types of business ventures, and prompt a constructive dialogue between small business owners, and capital providers. The survey was administered by Morning Consult, an independent, third-party market research firm. Asahi Pompey, the president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, and the Global Head of Corporate Engagement, stated that small businesses are vital to the health of the economy, adding that supporting their growth is of critical value. Small businesses are more likely to provide their workers with the appropriate training, healthcare, and wage growth, even if it means reducing their bottom line. According to Richard Bliss, National Academic Director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Babson College, the report only confirms what we’ve known for years. Hiring the right people is the biggest challenge for growing small businesses, and the growing skills gap should be narrowed down ASAP. Small businesses need a “strong talent pipeline,” an idea that requires more work.  Here are some of the key findings the Voice of Small Businesses in America report came up with:  Biggest Challenges:  As many as 76% of surveyees reported that the main challenge they face is attracting, hiring, and retaining employees. Also, most business owners claim that they appreciate a positive attitude, integrity, and willingness to learn new things more than education and experience.  Minimum wage increase:   Small businesses are in favor of a higher minimum wage, in spite of its potential impact on their bottom line. Even though 65% of respondents believe the increase would have impacted their earnings negatively, 80% of business owners believe the minimum wage should increase.  Healthcare: Even though only 8% of respondents are required to provide healthcare, most business owners provide at least some health benefits for a number of their employees. ACA does not obligate them to do so, but they invest in this issue anyway, as they believe it’s “the right thing to do.” Taxes and the Government Shutdown:  The study found that 46% of surveyees do not know how the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects their business. Almost 40% of business owners reported a negative impact following the government shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019.  The effects of automation:  As many as 71% of business owners employ some form of automation. Still, this process only resulted in 5% of respondents laying off employees. In fact, 35% simply changed the employees’ positions, and 32% even hired new people.   Gender issues:  While 77% of male respondents are optimistic about the current economy, only 65% of women concur. The results are likely linked to almost ⅕ of women reporting difficulties with securing financial support due to their sex. Only 2% of men claimed the same.

By Andrea September 11,2019

Many small business owners rely on SBA loans to start and grow their companies. Taxpayers diligently contribute to this Federal Agency that is tasked with helping aspiring and struggling small businesses. However, does the money really go to small entrepreneurs in need? Apparently, not always. In the period between the FY2014 and FY2018, Small Business Administration (SBA) approved 543,081 loans for $168.9 billion in taxpayer obligations. However, taxpayers might be surprised to learn that 57% of the SBA portfolio, or $94 billion, was given in loans exceeding $1 million. Not exactly the typical amount awarded to small businesses. According to the American Transparency investigation: U.S. Small Business Administration – Quantifying Lending Practice Report, local mom and pop shops weren’t the recipients of such hefty loans. Instead, the money went to private country clubs, hotel chains, mezzanine finance firms, private investor funds, and investment pools. American Transparency, a government watchdog organization reveled in their recently published Report that small businesses in Beverly Hills, California, received a total of $117 million. Specific recipients included doctors with practices on Wilshire Boulevard, a couture high fashion design school, and retailers selling alligator leather belts for $750 and cowboy boots for $3,400. Among the not so small business owners who were granted SBA loans in the last five years was a French wine importer who received $1.75 million. Also, an eyeglass designer whose frames are sported by A-list celebrities got a loan for $2.155 million. “The mission of the SBA is to provide lending to entrepreneurs with great ideas who can’t find financing in the private marketplace,” says Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of American Transparency. Yet, their Report found significant funds were approved to businesses supporting a luxurious lifestyle which could apply for traditional bank loans. They discovered that seventy-four yacht clubs received SBA loans totaling over $35 million between FY2014 and FY2018. Another $39.2 million of SBA loans went to forty-nine different tennis clubs. Forty-six country clubs received some type of SBA loan amounting to over $18 million while $12.2 billion in lending flowed to highly capitalized VC companies from Wall Street. Apart from granting loans to recipients who don’t exactly qualify as small businesses, the SBA also charged-off $16.5 billion during the last nine years (FY2010-FY2018). Given the fact that bad debt experience is realized only five years after the loan is taken out, FY2015 through FY2018 will continue to show an even worse experience as the loans mature. Among those with bad debt, the Report identified four national hotel chains. Between Choice Hotels, Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, and Days Inn, there are more than $350 million in defaulted SBA loans. “Wasting scarce dollars on unproductive enterprises diverts dollars away from productive enterprises. It’s a rigged game in which the house – politicians – always wins,” Andrezejewski told The Center Square. He emphasized the importance of publicly asking the following questions: 1. How were these industries chosen? What’s the public purpose of asking working and middle-class citizens to subsidize those businesses? 2. During a period of unprecedented economic prosperity, why does the SBA allow so much lending on million-dollar-plus loans? 3. What about the SBA lending to the Wall Street bankers? In his opinion, the taxpayers deserve to know the answers.

By Ivana V. August 21,2019

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has recently announced its new pilot program aimed at supporting small business growth. Teaming up with the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), the NJEDA will give out $15 million to small businesses from the state.Organizations that provide loans to micro-enterprises and other small businesses that are unable to qualify for traditional bank financing will be eligible to apply for this form of funding.The NJEDA will allocate $15 million to the CDFI Initiative, to help expand its capacity to provide financing to small businesses from New Jersey. Applications for the program are expected to be available as of September 2019.“Building a stronger and fairer economy starts with connecting small businesses with the resources they need to grow and expand,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan in the official statement. Sullivan underscored the importance of the CDFI’s function of lending to small businesses that are not yet ready for bank financing because of insufficient or bad credit history. He believes this CDFI Initiative will enhance the CDFI’s ability to provide micro-enterprises and main street small businesses with the funds they need to develop and thrive.The newly launched financing program consists of two components - Loans to Lenders and Premier CDFI Program. Through the Loans to Lenders component of the CDFI Initiative, the NJEDA will grant direct loans up to $1.5 million to experienced CDFIs with demonstrated lending and portfolio management history. The CDFIs will then use those resources to give out term loans and lines of credit to qualified New Jersey small businesses.In the Premier CDFI Program, the NJEDA will provide participations and guarantees of up to $500,000 on CDFI term loans or working capital lines of credit for qualified small businesses. Both CDFIs and the borrowing small entrepreneurs will have more flexibility, thanks to the NJEDA’s participation in the process, which will reduce CDFI’s overall exposure in the transaction.According to Christina Fuentes, the Director of Small Business Services at the NJEDA, the CDFI Initiative was designed on the feedback received from organizations that support small businesses in the state.“One of the most common challenges we at the NJEDA hear from business owners is that there are not enough resources for businesses that are looking to expand but are not able to qualify for financing from traditional banks,” Fuentes said. “The CDFI Initiative fills an important gap and will play a crucial role in helping community-based lending organizations make the necessary investments into small businesses so they can grow and prosper.”

By Ivana V. July 23,2019

The annual Small Business Credit Survey conducted by twelve Federal Reserve Banks shows more than a third of small employer firms are burdened with outstanding debt.According to the recently published research which polled 6,614 small business owners (employing less than 500 workers) from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a majority of small businesses faced financial challenges last year. As many as 64% of them reported struggling financially, with operating expenses being the number one problem (40%), followed by credit availability (31%) and making payments on debt (29%).In order to address those financial issues, 69% of small businesses used personal funds, 45% took out additional credit, 32% cut staff, hours, and/or downsized operations, while 28% made a late payment or failed to make a payment altogether. Outstanding debt The Small Business Credit Survey reveals that 70% of small employer firms have outstanding liabilities. The amount of debt varies significantly - 68% of small businesses owe less than $100,000, 13% of them need to pay back between $100,000 and $250,000, another 13% has outstanding liabilities amounting to $1 million, and 6% are facing debt in excess of $1 million.Small businesses owners relied on different collaterals to secure their debt. Some 58% of them put their personal assets on the line using personal guarantees, while 49% put down their business assets.Financing needs of small employer companiesWith accumulating debt threatening their livelihood, small business owners turn to different financial institutions for help. The study reveals that 43% of employer firms applied for financing in the last twelve months.The most popular financing and credit products sought by the applicants were loans and lines of credit (85%), credit cards (28%) and trade credits (9%). The types of loans and lines of credit they asked for were business loans, business lines of credit, SBA loans/lines of credit, equipment loans, personal loans, and mortgages. Who do small businesses borrow money from?Apart from turning to traditional creditors, like big banks (49%) and small banks (44%), the research points to a growing trend among small business owners. As many as 32% of them borrow money from online lenders for their speed of decision and the increased chances of being approved. This is a significant jump from the previous year when only 24% of small business owners sought funding from such institutions. The fact that small businesses can apply, get approved, and receive the funds in a matter of hours is the great appeal of online lenders. Medium and high-risk applicants were especially inclined to seek funds from these lenders who often have high-interest rates, whereas low credit-risk applicants keep relying on tried and tested, yet slow creditors.Approval ratesLuckily, the majority of loan seekers get their funding approved. The report indicates that 60% of applicants are fully approved, receiving all the funds they asked for. Another 22% get part of the amount they asked for, and only 18% are denied.According to the report, small banks provide for the most satisfied clients year after year, with satisfaction rates holding steady between 73% and 75% in the last three years.To obtain more information about the loans small businesses take, the best approval rates by loan and lender type, consult the full report here.

By Ivana V. July 22,2019

Launching your own small business can be daunting. But having a support system and a well-developed platform to place your products on makes it a whole lot easier. According to Amazon 2019 Small Business Impact Report, more than 1.9 million businesses, content creators, and developers in the U.S. use Amazon products and services to reach their customers and achieve their business goals.How is Amazon supporting small and medium-sized businesses?Making big investments in the delivery network, data centers, AI research, robotics, and staff, Amazon has increased the percentage of small and medium-sized businesses operating and bringing in revenue on its e-commerce platform. They now make up 58% of all sales, almost double what this number was ten years ago when SMBs accounted for only a third of Amazon sales.Another fundamental way Amazon is strengthening small and medium-sized entrepreneurs is by providing loans. In 2018 alone, the company gave out $1 billion in loans to U.S.-based business owners who sell their products on the e-commerce website.The report also shows that since 2011, the retail giant has invested tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure and technical services, boosting small businesses both in the country and abroad. How are small business owners using Amazon?Ventures small entrepreneurs undertake on this global platform are first and foremost online sales but also developing skills for Alexa, writing and publishing on Kindle, and creating video content for Prime Video.According to the report, small businesses from the U.S. made, on average, $90,000 by selling on Amazon stores in 2018. And businesses that used Fulfillment by Amazon to deliver their products to customers more than doubled their export sales in the previous year.Amazon Web Services (AWS), a cloud computing department that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies, and governments, on a pay-as-you-go basis, is another great help available to small and medium-sized businesses. Last year, the company gave more than $500 million in AWS credits to help startups accelerate their growth as they build their businesses.And for early-stage startups working on developing voice and AI technologies, Amazon created programs like the Alexa Accelerator and Alexa Fellowship to provide additional support. Such programs are the reason 90% of Alexa-enabled products that launched in 2018 were built by someone other than Amazon. This emerging technology has been welcomed by consumers the world over. So far, 100 million Alexa-enabled devices have been sold.Authors who publish their work on Amazon also play an important role in this success story. In 2018, they earned more than $260 million from the Kindle Direct Publishing Select Global Fund, thanks to the fact they keep 70% of every sale in royalties. In fact, last year there were more than 1,000 writers who made more than $100,000 by selling their books on the platform.Which states boast the most Amazon selling businesses?The report shows that Mississippi, Nebraska, Maine, Texas, Indiana, Colorado, North Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Missouri witnessed the fastest-growing sales in Amazon’s stores in 2018.To get more information on how Amazon is impacting small businesses in other countries, consult the full report here.

By Ivana V. July 19,2019

The House of Representatives has passed the Small Business Association Cyber Awareness Act, aiming to help small businesses combat cyberattacks and raise cyber awareness. The SBA Cyber Awareness Act would expand cyber security operations of the Small Business Association by requiring it to issue a report assessing the agency’s ability to combat cyber threats.The agency will have to produce an annual Congressional report assessing its information technology and noting whether any of its equipment was manufactured in China. “With 1.1 million Coloradans employed by small businesses, we need to protect them and the @SBAgov that serves them,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colorado) stated in his Twitter account. “Cyber attacks have the ability to shut down small businesses and destabilize our economy. This bill helps protect millions of small businesses served by the SBA and puts them on the best footing possible to deal with our 21st century threats,” said Crow. “I’m proud to have such strong bipartisan support for this bill and to deliver for the millions of small businesses that are the backbone of our economy.”The House also passed the Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act sponsored by Steve Chabot. Counselors at small business development centers would need to be certified in cybersecurity to assist small businesses in preventing and responding to cyber attacks.Both bills will now head to the Senate, joining a growing number of stalled cybersecurity-related measures waiting for a floor vote. Given that too many small business owners do not have the necessary resources to prevent security risks, it is crucial for the Senate to vote on the bills as soon as possible. Recent years have shown that a breach at a small business can lead to devastating consequences and can also be a doorway for a breach at larger companies. The average cost of a cyber attack on a small business is over $30,000. Furthermore, a recent study conducted that over 85% of small business owners say they fear cyberattacks and feel unprepared for one.

By Julija A. July 18,2019

According to a recent survey conducted by the Bank of America, small business owners are reporting diminished confidence in the economy and growing concerns for a number of key economic issues, such as health care costs, interest rates, and the stock market. However, they remain mostly optimistic about their own business outlook.The semiannual study which explores perspectives, aspirations, and apprehensions of small entrepreneurs across the nation was conducted on a sample of 1,504 small business owners with annual revenue between $100,000 and $4,999,999 and employing between two and 99 employees. Major economic concernsThe report shows business owners’ confidence in both the local and national economy is slightly down from last year, with 51% feeling optimistic that their local economy will improve over the next 12 months and 48% harboring the same hopes for the national economy. At the same time last year, 56% of small entrepreneurs believed in the local economy improvement and 54% thought the national economy would boost.Health care costs are the number one concern of small business owners in the U.S., with this issue weighing on 66% of respondents.Political environment was a close second most troubling issue stated by 65% of surveyed small business owners. Interest rates, the stock market, and consumer spending round up the top five major concerns.Strong business growth projectionsDespite their doubts in the economy, entrepreneurs forecast increased revenue, business growth and new hires in the year ahead. Nearly 60% of respondents expect their profit to grow in the next 12 months, 24% plan to take on new employees, 67% plan to expand their business the following year and 12% intend to take out a loan in the same period.The discrepancy between small business owners’ confidence in the national economy and their own ventures can be explained by the following data: Only 44% of entrepreneurs said their business decisions are sometimes impacted by major economic issues. Another 35% said major economic issues rarely influence their business decisions, and 10% said such large-scale economic matters never affect their business decisions. Proactive about protecting their businessesAccording to the study, majority of businesses owners recognize the need to prepare for disruptive events like economic turmoil, natural disasters, and cyber attacks. In case of economic downturn, 69% of small entrepreneurs have taken steps to protect their business, like establishing an emergency fund (37%), creating an alternative business plan (25%), and opening a line of credit (19%).A majority of business owners (61%) have taken some measures to keep their businesses safe against floods, fires, and other natural disasters. These include purchasing an insurance policy (49%), backing up important business files (40%), implementing a communication protocol for employees (19%), and making structural updates to their office buildings (14%).Cyberattacks are the top threat business owners have prepared for: As many as 80% of entrepreneurs have already taken steps to keep their data safe.Installing security patches and updating them regularly is the most common measure (47%), followed by securing customer data (44%). Other steps business owners rely on are securely disposing of confidential documents (42%), training employees on confidentiality protocols (27%), and implementing a third-party security management program (25%).For more information, consult the full report here.

By Ivana V. July 18,2019

Online retailer eBay yesterday announced eight finalists for its award for small business of the year. For the fourth year in a row, eBay is giving out its Shine Awards for Small Business to inspiring entrepreneurs who operate on its e-commerce platform.The eight finalists are now competing for three prizes awarded by the online marketplace. Winners will be chosen by a public vote on the official 2019 Shine Awards page. Voters can select up to three candidates and give out their votes three times a day.One Grand Prize Winner will be taking home a $15,000 cash award and a $10,000 donation in their name to an eBay for Charity organization of choice that supports small business and entrepreneurs.Two Platinum Award Winners will receive a $10,000 cash prize, and five Gold Prize Winners will get $5,000 in cash. In addition to the monetary awards, the finalists will also get prizes that will help them promote their businesses on eBay. This includes a one-year Anchor or Premium store subscription and Concierge service, promoted listing credentials, store banner makeover with digital winner badge, professional photoshoot, and video profile.Once the voting is completed on July 25, all finalists will get the chance to participate in the VIP Awards Ceremony at the eBay Open conference in Las Vegas.“Shine is truly a once-in-a-lifetime honor that gives me the platform to grow my small business while working on my cause,” the 2018 Shine Awards Small Business of the Year Winner Cori O’Steen said. “Winning the awards gave my charity, Recovery Road Ministries, the needed funds to finally open our doors. Between the increased visibility in the community and our winnings, the outpouring of support we’ve had has been phenomenal.”This year’s finalists - Todd Hallada, Sahil Kumar, Clara Jeanne LaCelle, John Macris, Elijah McCloskey, Jodi Rosenbaum, Dov Schreiber, and Nanette Zupon - are eBay merchant stars who inspire others by their perseverance, a can-do attitude, and the different ways they give back to their communities. They were selected out of 1,600 candidates.

By Ivana V. July 16,2019

Recently, Mastercard, an American multinational financial services corporation, announced its partnership with Zoho, an Indian software development company.Zoho’s platform can offer Mastercard’s small business customers accounting, marketing, and CRM tools and resources, and help them increase efficiency and accelerate growth. Running small businesses could become easier, more efficient, and ultimately, more profitable for business owners on a global scale.Every business aims to increase its productivity and efficiency, and small businesses are especially vulnerable due to limited budgets, which leave them heavily reliant on seeds and organic growth. It is vitally important for them to save time and money, and Zoho’s newly available products, tools, and services can help automate and digitize time-sensitive and paper-based processes.Expanding its partnership in India to the whole world, Mastercard and Zoho are enabling simpler business operations for a number of new SMBs. Pairing Mastercard’s and Zoho’s smart solutions is meant to help address minuscule but costly, demanding, and seemingly insurmountable issues to help businesses survive and generate profit.Zahir Khoja, the executive vice president at Mastercard, said that entrepreneurs will benefit from the partnership and that it will subsequently drive job creation, productivity, and growth worldwide. It is therefore critical that Mastercard finds adequate partners and assists business owners on their journey to success.Small businesses account for almost 50% of the world’s GDP and employ over two-thirds of the global workforce. With the help of Mastercard’s partnerships, small businesses can leverage various solutions such as resource planning, customer relationship management, marketing solutions, and finance software.Sridhar Vembu, the CEO of Zoho Corporation, stated that he was excited to partner with Mastercard, a company committed to empowering small businesses. The partnership, according to Mr. Vembu, connects SMBs with innovative applications that enable them to access, analyze, and manage real-time data, critical to their success. Cooperation facilitates business owners’ daily responsibilities and helps them thrive. Mastercard and Zoho’s joint mission is to fuel the worldwide small business economy and benefit a wide array of communities.Zoho is a cloud-based platform with flexible technology that makes integrating solutions and bringing them to the market easier for business owners. Currently, its user base consists of more than 45 million businesses. Its technology stack is flexible and accessible via website and app and can be delivered via API, with over 40+ apps across a range of categories.Zoho and Mastercard expect to make their joint solutions available later this year.

By Andrea July 15,2019

Signpost is a Chelsea-based tech company helping businesses stack up positive online reviews, and build a strong online following by engaging preexisting customers and acquiring new ones. According to Crunchbase data, the company has raised a total of $88.6 million over seven rounds of funding, counting the new $52 million boost.According to a 2018 survey by Review Trackers, 63.6% of consumers check reviews on Google before committing to a purchase. And yet, only 28% of customers are willing to leave a positive review.This means that, even if you have numerous satisfied customers, two negative reviews might be all your potential users see when they visit your profile. Online reviews can make or break a business, and Signpost has identified a vital market need to address.Signpost has been helping companies leave the best possible impression on potential customers since 2010. Its methodology of encouraging and collecting internal feedback from previous customers involves sending reminders to users, prompting them to share positive and negative reviews on Yelp, Facebook, and Google. With access to behavioral data from more than 70 million U.S. customers, Signpost also helps companies acquire and engage new customers.All of this is achieved using Mia, a subscription-based digital personal assistant. Mia’s many features automate customer feedback and follow-ups. The price varies depending on the package: a basic plan costs $199, and a $399 pro subscription is paid monthly and provides some additional tools and services."We consistently find that businesses have really happy customers, yet they may have a bad rating online," said CEO Stuart Wall. "Their only review might be that one person who had a bad experience."The firm has expanded its workforce to about 200 employees, 70 of them based in New York. The rest work in Denver and Austin. This week, the company moved to a 12,000 square foot office space on 275 Seventh Ave. in Chelsea. The new work environment will likely accommodate even more people as Signpost expands its workforce to increase sales and research staff.As an example of exactly what Signpost does for its customers, picture a gym, a place which primarily makes money on people paying for a service and never using it. Mia might help runaway clients renew their subscription by sending automatic offers for a 10% discount on new sessions."We're not just giving insights, we are taking action," Wall added.

By Andrea July 12,2019