Small Business Jobs Growth Continues to Struggle, Paychex Report Says

February 2018 Small Business Employment Statistics

After a promising start to 2018, there’s been drops in both new small business jobs and wage growth in February, according to a recent report by business services supplier Paychex and businesses analytics provider IHS Markit.

February 2018 Small Business Employment Statistics

The Paychex | IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch for February reveals the job market at small businesses is tightening. There are fewer new jobs, wages are going down slightly and the amount of hours worked per job are going up.

This index uses a baseline figure of 100. If the index is above, it shows job growth. However, in February, the Small Business Jobs Index is 99.77. This represents a one percent  drop from last year at this time and a 0.11 percent decline from January 2018. This month marks the eighth in a row where the national index has been below 100.

The 12-month hourly earnings growth metric fell too. It was 2.74 percent in January and stood at 2.67 percent in February. Wages averaged out nationally at $26.41 per hour.

However, weekly hours have been steadily climbing year over year for 15 months.

The numbers can be at least partially explained in the ongoing search for qualified employees.

“The results of the Small Business Jobs Index over the past year are evidence of the tightening labor market,” said Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO in a company release.  “As the growth in jobs stabilizes because of challenges in finding qualified employees, we expect to see business owners making positive changes to wages and benefits.”

The regional jobs breakdown has the South  in first place with an index of 100.34, the only region with an index over 100. The West leads in wage growth among regions averaging $27.52 per hour.

Washington was tops for state small business employment growth and Arizona was the leader for state  hourly earnings growth. Seattle bumped Denver as the number one metro when it came to  small business employment growth with a one month growth rate of 0.88 percent.

For earnings growth, Western metros outshone the rest of America by a fair margin.

When it comes to industries, construction is enjoying steady employment growth with an index of 100.38 in the last quarter and has been on the upswing for the last six years.   Leisure and hospitality enjoyed the best hourly earnings growth with a 3.79 percent year over year gain.

The Paychex | IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch is released monthly. It derives data from  approximately 350,000 Paychex clients.

Paychex is a provider of HR, payroll, retirement and insurance services for business while IHS Market provides information, analytics and solutions for industries worldwide.

Image: Paychex

This article, “Small Business Jobs Growth Continues to Struggle, Paychex Report Says” was first published on Small Business Trends



The Brag Basket is our big heart

The Brag Basket has a big heart. Photo via PicNoi.

The Brag Basket is open! This one is for March 9-11, 2018. Bring your good news, big or small, to share with everyone.

What can you share in the Brag Basket?

  • introduce yourself
  • share some great news from this week
  • celebrate progress, even baby steps
  • congratulate a friend
  • applaud for each other
  • confess your undying love for rural places

Want to see some past Brag Baskets and read some past contributions? Here’s the archive.

How do you join in?

Below this post is the comment section. Add your good news there.

Reading this in your email? Hit reply.

Don’t like to brag? Just share some good news for someone you’re happy for. It’s a conversation with friends. So jump in. And remember to cheer for each other.


Washington State Approves Its Own Net Neutrality Rules

Washington State Net Neutrality Bill Passed

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State signed a bill into law which counteracts the federal net neutrality rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The bill makes Washington the first state in the country to sign such a law.

The FCC created the net neutrality rules in 2015 in order to stop service providers from controlling or “throttling” internet traffic. In December of 2017, it reversed the ruling. This has resulted in numerous lawsuits by consumer groups, several state attorneys general as well as governors vowing to overturn the ruling. The New York Times reported tech companies Etsy, Foursquare, and Kickstarter have also filed suits on Monday.

Business leaders are divided on the change in rules. Some arguing net neutrality rules could hold back innovation while some small businesses and large web companies supporting the rules as the only way to insure a level plating field for all companies on the web regardless of size.

The Washington State Net Neutrality Bill

In Washington, House Bill 2282 will protect its residents and small businesses from throttling of internet traffic at the state level.  When it goes into effect on June 6, internet service providers will be barred from blocking or throttling speeds for websites.

Under the new law, service providers are also required to disclose information about their management practices, performance and commercial terms. Companies violating the law will be forced to comply as the state can use its Consumer Protection Act to enforce it.

The bill had bipartisan support, passing by 35 to 14 in the state Senate and 93 to 5 in the state House. On the Governor’s press page, Inslee said, “Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet. We’ve seen the power of an open internet. It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world — or a small business to compete in the global marketplace. It’s allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history.”

More States to Come

Washington is not the only state making this stance. To date, there are at least 25 other governors across the country who are looking into their own net neutrality bills. But executive orders have been signed by the governors of Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Vermont which ban state agencies from doing business with companies violating net neutrality rules.

As for the service providers, The Washington Times has reported Ron Main, executive director of the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, said, “The cable companies his group represents have already pledged not to block legal content or engage in paid prioritization.”

Main, who opposed the bill, added, “There should not be a state-by-state patchwork of differing laws and regulations.”

The FCC ruling takes effect in late spring. Stay tuned for more lawsuits!

Image: Governor Jay Inslee

This article, “Washington State Approves Its Own Net Neutrality Rules” was first published on Small Business Trends


Go Where Others Fear to Tread

Success sign

Photo (CC) by BruceBer, on Flickr

Want a successful business? Then make this headline, “go where others fear to tread,” your action phrase. 

How might this work?

Well, for much of your competition, just the thought of treading outside of boundaries is enough to stop many. And for those who a large group of those who do take the plunge, do so with little thought or planning. So thoughtfully breaking the “rules” will substantially whittled down your competition.

So what type of planning do you need to do? You need to focus on new opportunities. Many business owners take that to mean new markets you can tap. And that certainly is one possible course of action. But this is just the beginning.

In terms of marketing, perhaps the new ground to explore is understanding and focusing on the customers who make up your top 10% of sales. Who are they and where can you find more of them? Why do they come to you? Who can provide the leads to reach this subset of your market?

Or your new stretch might be a change in how your communicate? Bring back the hand-written thank you; pick up the phone instead of an email; or drop by instead of the phone.

Maybe it’s in your service that you break down the boundaries. Every time I get an oil change, using various dealers, I am asked to rate the performance. And in doing so, they want me to give them a five-star rating. What is a five-star rating? They all perform equally well so, to me, there are no top ratings. Think on how you can distinguish yourself. What if you picked my car up and dropped it off for the same price? Or how about a return to groceries bagged and loaded in my car? The call in service is to under-commit and over-deliver, but how many places actually hit that mark?

Could your sales process be where you make your mark? Might you truly listen more and talk less? Are you so confident that you have a great option that you can lay out what you offer and then stop talking and let the customer make up her or his mind?

Winning businesses are doing what others are afraid of. Be the one who sets the bar high. Doing so will discourage most of your competition.


The giant checklist of social media marketing basics for small town business

Start with this checklist

Here are specific steps any small business in a rural area can take to get started on social media marketing.

Physical, bricks and mortar businesses, claim your Google listing first:

  1. Claim your Google listing at
  2. What to do if you’re not in the right place on the map
  3. Update your info, especially hours
  4. Add some photos
  5. Use ongoing updates to post holiday hours, special opening times, events, specials for people who find your listing

Second, have a good website

  1. Include the basics from this checklist: name, address, phone, true rural location, and hours
  2. The number one feature is the location of your store
  3. Ask your customers what they want from your website
  4. Use landing pages to check your results from your social media efforts
  5. Here are 9 reasons to include a blog even if no one subscribes

Third, ask customers what social tools they use

  1. Know the general rural trends: Rural people use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at same % rate as urban people. But rural people lag urban on LinkedIn, Pinterest use. (Pew Internet 2016)
  2. Find out if they’re email users (may depend on age and occupation)

Next, pick just one social tool to focus on

  1. Usually Facebook is the one where most of your customers are
  2. But remember to put Facebook in its place alongside email and your website
  3. Facebook Groups are hot right now, but expect things to change (for more on Facebook Groups for business listen to this podcast)

Definitely email your customers

  1. Getting started with email marketing for small town businesses
  2. Ways to build your email list
    1. Without breaking the law
  3. Stop thinking clutter and start thinking of email as personal

How to keep up with the trends in social media

  1. Should you keep up with trends? Ask your customers
  2. Build a layer cake with others in the community
  3. Start something like Tweetfolk Tours in your area
  4. Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement is a social media marketing resource for growers (but good for any small business trying to keep up)

Other specific tools to be aware of

  1. Pinterest and Vimeo
  2. Yelp isn’t big in my town. I know because I compared five weeks of my views on Yelp to the same month of views on Google. (see the graphic below)
  3. TripAdvisor matters for some tourism-related categories
  4. A few thoughts on “influencers” and your business

Yelp doesn’t look very competitive in my market for my business. Your results may vary.


Take the small town social media approach

Platforms and tools come and go. These techniques apply in every channel and tool, no matter what changes.

Where to find the time

  1. Use checklists for social media work to keep it from ballooning
  2. How to find time for writing while still running your business
  3. Fit social marketing into your existing plans
  4. Apply the Simplified Marketing Plan

Plan ahead with a content calendar

  1. Planners and calendars
  2. Tap seasonal campaigns like Shop Small throughout the year
  3. Shift Your Shopping series you can reuse any year

Small town style for social media

  1. Our small town culture can be a big asset in social media marketing
  2. Talk less about you and more about them 
  3. Be a social media mirror
    1. Share customer content, with permission
    2. Set up easy ways to contribute: email, hashtag,
  4. 18 Topics to talk about

Use a variety of different media, no matter what channel you pick

  1. Include words, pictures, and video
  2. Here are some tools for easy graphics creation
    1. Canva
    2. Pablo
    3. Landscape (a photo resizing tool specifically for social media)

Listen to customers and respond

  1. Answer customer questions
  2. Ask customers for requests and follow them up

Be part of the local community

  1. How to get locals to follow you on your social channels
  2. More ways to get locals to follow you
  3. Talk about your causes, your people’s causes
  4. Talk about what’s going on
  5. Talk about competitors
  6. Show what there is to do in your town 

Use photos effectively

  1. Always include captions
  2. Where to find photos online that you can use for your business
  3. Know the restrictions on using photos you find online

Use video well

  1. How to use video to promote your small business
  2. How to do simple videos for your business (an old look at the equipment and process I used when I started)
  3. How to do live video like Facebook Live
  4. 21 things to cover  with video

Audio and podcasting

  1. Podcasting basics



The Brag Basket has all the makings of good news

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

The Brag Basket is open! This one is for March 2-4, 2018. Bring your good news, big or small, to share with everyone.

What can you share in the Brag Basket?

  • introduce yourself
  • share some great news from this week
  • celebrate progress, even baby steps
  • congratulate a friend
  • applaud for each other
  • confess your undying love for rural places

Want to see some past Brag Baskets and read some past contributions? Here’s the archive.

How do you join in?

Below this post is the comment section. Add your good news there.

Reading this in your email? Hit reply.

Don’t like to brag? Just share some good news for someone you’re happy for. It’s a conversation with friends. So jump in. And remember to cheer for each other.


Balance Your Marketing Presence


Photo (CC) by Alex Holyoake, on Flickr

To many business owners, marketing feels like a numbers game. Too little and no one knows you exist. Too much and your potential customer feels bombarded.

So business owners are forced to look for balance in their marketing.

Yet balance is not something that can be readily achieved. It begins with knowing your customer base. Questions on where they might see your message come into play. Also, every individual will have a different levels of tolerance for how often they want to see your business message. But even that item is not static as if I, the customer, am in the market for something, I am willing and even anxious to gather more information than if your message is just one more ad I see in the daily jumble.

Tolerance also depends on what you are sending as a message. Is it just about selling or do you include other types of messages in your marketing mix? Might it add some humor to my day or touch some emotion. Yet other people just want the facts.

Also, trying to attract new customers requires more messages than when you are retaining existing customers. And the messages may differ with focused, directed messages for existing customers and more broadly distributed messages when trying to attract new customers.

Thus balance becomes necessary.  Having sheer numbers or certain ad types or placement in the right media will not guaranteed business success.

And remember that what works for marketing today may not be the answer tomorrow.

Don’t focus on just one goal or assume that one customer represents all of your market. Focus on your marketing goals. Identify your general customer and some of major sub-categories of customers. Do more than just a sales pitch in your effort.

Marketing brings success if you can find the balance.