3 Things I Learned This Year

Rieva Lesonsky shares three things she learned this year that are worth noting.
Contributing Writer, SmallBizTrends.com
December 26, 2011

My 6th-grade teacher made us read and discuss articles in The New York Times daily because he believed “you should learn something new every day.” That lesson has stuck with me, and it influenced my career choice.

This year, I’ve been deluged with new information. It was hard to winnow it down, but here are three things I learned this year that are worth sharing.

1. It’s getting cloudy out there

We’ve been flirting with the cloud for several years, but cloud computing came of age in 2011. Cloud technology will transform SMBs in 2012, says Cindy Bates, Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. small, medium business and distribution. It brings “the opportunity for small and mid-size businesses to get enterprise-level technology.”

If you think the cloud is only for tech companies, the folks at Blue Chair Fruit Company would beg to differ. Blue Chair makes artisan jams and marmalades in unusual flavors like Meyer lemon-blood orange with rose geranium.

Though that sounds like a quintessentially small-business operation, Blue Chair creates between 50 and 100 flavors every year, and makes more than 1,000 jars a week, selling for around $12 a jar.

Despite being an old-world type of business, Blue Chair uses new-world technologies and has fully embraced them so it can concentrate on creating its products. It uses Xero, an online accounting software, to manage its invoicing and other accounting needs. The service easily integrates with its cloud-based e-commerce operations.

2. We all need professional help

Every small business needs a team of professionals to perform routine tasks or for those “just-in-case” situations. For instance, you never know when you might need legal assistance. Attorneys are expensive, so small businesses need a low-cost alternative.

Rocket Lawyer is an online legal service that offers legal documents like incorporation filings or employee contracts “a TurboTax-like approach.” The documents are stored in the cloud in a “legal dashboard” where you can e-sign, share, store and update your documents 24 hours a day.

An On Call service gives members access to local attorneys for free document reviews. It offers deeply discounted rates on legal services from attorneys in the Rocket Lawyer network.

3. Danger lurks everywhere

A few months ago, I wrote about the risks to your business from consumerization, a growing trend. Employees are using their own laptops, smartphones and tablets for office work, or they use their company-issued devices for personal business.

The problem is getting worse, says Natalie Severino, the director of consumer product marketing at Trend Micro. Employees don’t realize the threat from malware that they’re inadvertently getting from friends. The danger is exacerbated by social media.

Severino says the risks are growing because “consumers are more lax when they’re at home,” sometimes allowing their children to use their devices.

“You need rules," Severino says, especially with the rapid adoption of tablets in the workplace. Make sure all employee devices are password-protected, and that they don’t share that password with their kids.

If you’re a PC devotee, you’re probably tired of hearing from your Mac-addicted friends how much “safer” a Mac is. You might get some schadenfreude from Severino’s report that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting Macs because “they’re following the money.” As more consumers and businesses buy Macs, “we’re now seeing more outbreaks,” she says. Most Mac users think they’re safe, so they are oblivious to the risks.

I’ve also learned that 81 percent of consumers search on their smartphones from home, so many of us need to create mobile versions of our websites.

On a lighter note, despite their valiant attempts, pie, macaroons and doughnuts have not been able to dethrone cupcakes from the top of the dessert food chain.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Image credit: Blue Chair Fruit Company

Contributing Writer, SmallBizTrends.com