Sitting All Day Is Killing You!

How to combat health risks of sitting all day

Oh the sedentary life-style—the thing that many professionals can’t avoid. We sit in office chairs from 9-5, sit in our cars during our commutes, and probably relax on the couch after a long day at the office. If you have a job that keeps you moving during work hours, consider yourself lucky. Multiple studies show that sitting for more than six hours a day can shave seven years off your life. That’s a lot of life!

Prolonged sitting has been linked to an increase in metabolic syndrome, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and overall risk of death. The statistics show that it’s killing people at the same rate as smoking!

Perhaps the most disturbing part? Regular trips to the gym won’t undo the possible effects of prolonged sitting. The trick is to incorporate more movement and activity throughout your daily routine. Here are some tips to help keep your toes tapping:

  1. Walk or Bike to Work

    It’s no longer out of the ordinary to roll up on two weeks to work. Over the past decade, biking to work has increased by 60 percent. Bicycle commuters are saving money and enjoying multiple health benefits—all while missing out on morning traffic. Brilliant.

  2. Get Creative with your Work Space

    Our bodies are meant to be in motion. Make it happen and consider one of these active workspace options on the market:

    • Rebel Desk: get moving during the daily grind with a treadmill or standing desk. This brand has great product reviews and will increase your health as well as your productivity.
    • Via Seating: one trend in workspace movement has been to swap out your office chair with a stability ball. This is to help you engage your core during long hours on the job. The Swopper at Via Seating is similar in that it is designed to help you move in all three dimensions. You’ll strengthen your back, breathe deeper, and stimulate circulation.
    • VARIDESK: take a stand for your health and think about investing in a sit-stand desk. The price tag is a bit more manageable than other comparable brands and they offer an adjustable desk riser to sit on top of your already existing desk. The VARIDESK companion app allows you to set alerts to prompt you to stand throughout the day. You can also track your progress with the app’s calorie calculator.
  3. Take Regular Breaks

    Interrupt your couch potato work style by taking short breaks throughout the day for movement. Take a walk around the office, step outside for some fresh air, or simply stand and sit. If you have the space, it’s a great idea to keep exercise equipment in your office for blasts of resistance work and stretching throughout the day. Always keep dumbbells and a resistance band nearby.
    Of course, this is easier said than done. For many busy professionals working against tight deadlines, remembering to take breaks is difficult. Here are a few awesome apps to help remind you to step away from the desk: Eyeleo, Workrave, and Big Stretch Reminder.

  4. Host Walking Meetings

    To stay healthy in an office environment, you have to get creative. Be “that guy/girl” who hosts a walk club during lunch or asks team members to take a stroll during certain brainstorming sessions and meetings. You could even join up with your co-workers to run/walk in support of a charitable cause.

  5. Purchase an Activity Tracker

    To be honest, sitting is just easier. We easily get wrapped up in an assignment or project and lose all sight of our health. By tracking the calories you burn each day, you can get a better idea of when you need to pick up the pace. The FitBit is a favorite as well as the The Nike FuelBand. An office worker burns an average of 68 calories an hour, so aim higher for better health benefits on the job.

How do you keep moving during work hours?

About the author:

Tobi North – Creativity rock star and marketing master
I enjoy being innovative and creating communications that customers can relate to. I am always looking for that “light bulb” moment, when I find an interesting topic which I know our customers will love to learn more about. In between creative brainstorming sessions, you can probably find me at a concert or searching for the best BBQ joint in town. 

10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Work More Closely With an Accountant

10 reasons your small biz needs an accountant
Small businesses are not only trying to find their way in an uncertain economy, but they are also dealing with the seemingly constant changes to tax code and increased complexity of regulations. Trying to stay compliant without any outside help would dominate the majority of their time, taking them away from actually doing business. What is a small business owner to do? Sage is passionate about helping small businesses stay compliant while also achieving their business ambitions. To do this, we think it is important to partner with an outside accountant.

Many small business owners already work with an outside accountant. In fact, in a Sage Accountants Usage Study from last year, 59% of U.S. small businesses said they work with an accountant. While this is an encouraging number, the majority only utilize an outside accountant during tax season. What many small business owners don’t realize is the value that comes from building a relationship with an accountant on a consultative basis throughout the year. An accountant can serve as a trusted advisor who can not only help a business stay compliant, but also offers invaluable counsel to take a business to the next level, or assist in navigating through an uncertain economy. Accountants bring knowledge, experience, expertise, and a perspective that can help build a plan to turn business ambitions into reality.

Here are ten things outside accountants do well that small business should consider when determining what capacity and how often they want to utilize an outside accountant.

  1. Businesses need a plan.

    One reason thousands of businesses fail every year is that they didn’t have a plan. When asked why, they said, “I just didn’t know where to start.” This is where an accountant comes in. A good accountant will partner with a business to look at all the data and help build a roadmap to success. Poor planning doesn’t have to be reality, and bringing a professional on board can help small businesses plan for success.

  2. Accountants can save you from going too far down the wrong path.

    Many entrepreneurs got in to business for themselves out of passion for what they do. Because of this, they will sometimes find themselves in a situation where they made a decision based on this passion, not on the data, intelligence, and insights available. An accountant can help determine what the right next steps are for success.

  3. Accountants can provide a new perspective.

    Sometimes small business owners are so consumed with running the day-to-day operations of their business that they may not be able to see the whole picture. Meeting with an accountant can be like taking a step back, looking at the bigger picture, and gaining a fresh, new perspective. Sometimes that’s all it takes to come up with the next big idea.

  4. Accountants have reach.

    Don’t underestimate how valuable it is to receive guidance from someone who has insight and knowledge across hundreds of businesses and industries. Accountants not only get to see the financial information of many businesses across a variety of industries, but they also have visibility into best practices that are working for other businesses as well as the mistakes others have made that have led to failure. Being able to have this insight and share information on what has or hasn’t worked for others is invaluable—why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?

  5. Business owners using an accountant report the service is critical to their success.

    In the recent Accountant Usage Study conducted by Sage among U.S. business owners, 89 percent of respondents agreed that working with an accountant was a critical element of their success.

  6. Accountants understand tax.

    Especially in the current business environment, taxes are not always easy and straight- forward, and rules and regulations continue to change on a regular basis. Aligning with an accountant can help ensure that your business remains compliant and is a critical step in maximizing your tax savings.

  7. Accountants can bring financial information to life.

    If data is not being interpreted, analyzed, or used to help drive business direction and decisions then a great opportunity is being missed. Have an accountant help you dive into the numbers and use them to propel greater business growth and profitability in the future. Information without insights represents a missed opportunity.

  8. Accountants know numbers.

    There is a reason accountants went to school for many years—understanding the financial data of a business and translating that data in to insights to guide you in to the future is no easy job and requires a great deal of education as well as experience. When it comes to the numbers, don’t miss all that can be gained by working with a true expert.

  9. Accountants can be critical to getting through an audit.

    If your business has ever been audited by the Internal Revenue Service, you probably know that the ongoing assistance of an accountant can turn the usually frustrating and daunting experience into a much easier process. Participants of Sage accountant usage studies also agree—92% of respondents said working with an outside accountant during an audit was very helpful.

  10. A good accountant can make great recommendations.

    In day-to-day interactions with many businesses, an accountant gets to know how trustworthy a business is, its financial state, and its overall business strategy. Because of this, an accountant can often be the best person to make a referral when you’re looking for other professionals, whether that is an attorney, marketing guru, or website developer. An accountant can be one of the most connected people you know!

A small business can probably survive without the help of an outside accountant, but working more closely with an outside accountant year-round on more than just taxes will not only keep you compliant, but his or her guidance and expertise can help your business prosper in 2014 and beyond.

Source: Sage Accountants Network member study, conducted November, 2012, among 1,260 Sage Accountants Network contributing members.

About the author:

Jennifer Warawa – Vice President and General Manager of Sage Accountant Solutions at Sage North America
Jennifer’s passion is to partner with consultants, accountants and bookkeepers to provide solutions that make a difference in their business or firm, and support them in delivering an extraordinary experience to their clients.

Prior to working with Sage, Jennifer owned her own firm in Kelowna, BC for 12 years providing accounting, bookkeeping, consulting services, software training, as well as business/ financial planning and marketing.

Jennifer made the Accounting Today Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting and CPA Practice Advisor’s Top 40 Under 40 lists consecutively for the last five years. In 2013, Jennifer was also recognized as one of the CRN Women of the Channel: Power 100 and one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter.

How to Tackle a Negative Yelp Review

How to deal with negative Yelp reviews
When you’re in business, bad reviews come with the territory. Regardless of honest effort and a sincere commitment to customer service, the time will come when you will face a less than ideal online review. This negative comment may feel like a punch in the gut to a small business owner. The good news is that there is always a solution.

Customers love Yelp because so many companies don’t moderate the reviews, giving more power to the consumer. But those Negative Nancys can add up, if you’re not getting positive reviews to “push down” the nay-sayers.

If you get a negative review on Yelp, keep these things in mind:

  • Burying your head in the sand isn’t going to make the bad review go away. Attack it head on.
  • Always begin your response by thanking the reviewer for their business and their feedback.
  • Keep replies short, sweet and to the point.
  • Respond in a timely fashion. Stay tuned in to what people are posting on Yelp, and anywhere else online.
  • Some people just want to complain, BUT if there is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, tell that customer what your action plan is to fix it. Explaining the changes you’re making, or have already made to remedy the situation is the best way to build trust.
  • Be calm and professional in your response from a raging customer. Take a deep breath and remember that these are paying customers and your goal is to salvage that.
  • Flag any false reviews. False reviews are not permitted on Yelp and can be flagged for removal. Reviews that are hearsay or share misleading information are candidates for flagging.
  • The best way to redeem yourself from a bad review is by seeking out loyal and happy customers to write a great one. Never be cheesy or overbearing by offering free gifts or rewards for their review. Simply ask your most consistent customers/clients if they would be interested in leaving a review. Educate your loyal followers on where to go to post a review. If you’re offering an awesome product or service, it should not be difficult to redeem yourself from a negative comment.

Remember, Yelp is not the only option for small businesses looking to improve ratings and customer interaction. Consider checking out other review sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yellow Pages, Facebook, and more. And if you haven’t set up alerts to track your Twitter mentions, do it now. Knowing what consumers are saying about you and your business is key to growing and improving.

Have you ever received a negative review on Yelp? How did you handle it?

About the author:

Jenn Boutwell – VP Marketing & Strategic Alliances
I am a Sage One brand ambassador and team building virtuoso. Professionally I am known for building strong teams and organizing complex situations. I am passionate about making small business owners’ lives easier so they can spend more time on what they are passionate about. When I’m not running between meetings, I’m running half-marathons and training for a full marathon.

Drop me a line at jennifer.boutwell@sage.com.

Are You Ready to Turn Your Hobby into a Business?

Ready to turn your hobby into a business?
Over the years, I have seen more businesses fail than I can count. The formula usually goes something like this: employee decides he/she can do a certain “skill” independently, quits job, starts his/her own company, has no idea how to run said company, and ultimately fails. You can be the very best at what you do, but if you can’t successfully run (and grow) a business—you’ll be drowning within the first year. So before you turn your hobby into a business, ask yourself—am I ready for that level of commitment?

Here’s what makes the difference between a hobby and a real business. It’s more than just wishful thinking – it’s a real plan.

Have a plan

Eight of every 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within 18 months. Only 20% avoid the crash and burn! Sadly, most of them head down the road to failure from the start by skipping the planning process.

You need a plan! I can’t emphasize this enough. Not just goals or what you think you need to make, but real planning – extensive market research, a definition of your niche in the industry, customer analysis, plan of operations, a financial plan, and projections for revenue growth at least three years out. Be REALISTIC and plan for things to go wrong. Trust me, they will. 

Set it up

You can’t hang out your shingle and skip the legal stuff. You need to register as a business –and this is where a lot of hobbyists get things wrong. Choosing the right type of business can be critical. While there aren’t many options, the distinctions between each could make or break your business.

Options include: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, S Corporation, or Limited Liability Company. Your choice will determine what income tax return form you’ll need to file. Need help? Read the SBA’s article on determining your federal tax obligations. You may also want to read up on whether or not the IRS considers your hobby a for-profit endeavor.

Get your tools in place

So many people underestimate the role a streamlined business plays in startup success. Anything that makes running your business easier needs to be set in place well before you dive in – and there are a lot of options out there.

  • For cash flow: The goal is to get paid faster. Find an online solution that will allow you to get everything done in one place. Check out Sage One – it provides just what you need to get paid faster and seamlessly. Our automated invoicing services make you look great in front of customers, and help you avoid any invoices piling up or late payments slipping through the cracks. It’s a perfect accounting solution for start-ups and small businesses. Features include automated reports, ability to link your bank account, and more.
  • For building relationships (aka: customers!): How will you get marketing done in as little time possible? How will you use tools like social media to spread the word about your business? Get familiar with some of the tools to help you share your brand’s message – quickly and easily. Time is going to be your hottest commodity so you better get yourself organized. I like SproutSocial , personally, but Hootsuite is another great option. These social media tools can help you make a splash from the start and take your outreach to the next level.
  • For your ideas: One of the best things to do before jumping into your business is to gather your ideas, your plans and your business visions all in one place. The last thing you need to be doing is sifting through a mountain of papers at your desk trying to find that million-dollar idea you wrote down a month ago. There are hundreds of online solutions to get you organized. Evernote will save you time and energy best spent somewhere else. And Wunderlist is a great tool for tracking “must dos” for starting and managing your business. It also gives you an effortless and easy way to add collaborators. It’s an essential for me.

Make Sure Your Business Fits Your Lifestyle

Before you jump from hobby to business, make sure you have a realistic view of what your capable of. Risk is part of the deal when it comes to entrepreneurship, no doubt, but are you ready to give up your leisurely passion to commit to a battle for a place in the market?

Make sure that your potential business fits into your lifestyle, is one that has the potential to provide you with an income, and is actually do-able. Going after your dreams and doing what you love is great – but owning a business is a completely different thing than being employed, and it’s not the best fit for everyone.

Be honest with yourself—are you ready to turn your hobby into a business?

About the author:

Lawton Ursrey – Sage One awareness guru and fellow entrepreneur
I have a healthy disrespect for the impossible and a passion for the little details. While I run my own small business, I am also passionate about helping other small business owners. If I’m not running my business, or helping you run yours, then I’m probably playing guitar.

Follow me on Twitter.

Grow Conference Brought Tech Innovation to Whistler

Grow conference

This month one of the worlds most respected tech conferences, Grow, was hosted in Whistler, BC. With big name attendees that included Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Jawbone and Facebook, we knew we had to check it out!

Here’s a summary of our experience at Grow.

Wearable technology is hot

When I heard wearables was going to be a key topic at Grow this year I was expecting to hear about the usual suspects, Samsung Gear, Apple’s upcoming iWatch and Google Glass. To my surprise I was taken on a journey through the history of wearable technology, what’s happening now and what’s on the horizon.

The buzz about new technology makes us forget what came before it, and Grow made me realise that wearables isn’t the future, it arrived years ago (think Nike+ and Jawbone). There’s a lot out there that we don’t hear as much about in mainstream tech media, but it’s just spreading like wildfire through word of mouth. Some great examples include Recon, Misfit, MC10 and Sproutling, who are all developing technology related to tracking health and well being.

Disrupt rather than simply innovate

Brian Solis, from Altimeter Group, gave an inspiring speech about how businesses need to be building or moving their businesses toward disrupting incumbent organisations and processes—as opposed to just basing it on something that is slightly different than what’s already cool or successful. He gave some great examples including Uber, who have turned the taxi industry on its head by offering greater convenience, an alternative to traditional taxi bookings.

The elephant in the room: privacy in an increasingly connected world

There were some great updates about applications that are pushing the boundaries beyond mere GPS tracking. Applications like Waze, Life 360, and hardware that tracks your actions such as Google Glass and Misfits sleep monitor. But the big question is always this: “Will people really give up their privacy and adopt these technologies in their masses?” The reality is if you want to use them you have to give up a certain level of privacy.

Waze’s Julie Mossler commented that when people see a worthwhile gain from giving up some of their privacy, they’re happy to—the initial concerns over online banking is a great example. This confidence came with a cautionary note, however, that users need to be comfortable with that happens to their data from a security, storage and potential marketing permissions standpoint.

So much happened at Grow that we’re already looking forward to next year to see how tech has progressed in a year! Stay tuned for more!

About the author:

Keith Arkle – Product specialist and customer advocate   
Keeping our customers at the forefront of my mind is always a priority in my work. In talking about our product and preparing product launches, I always want to make sure our messaging is consistent and accurate. When I’m not working, I am probably hanging at home or travelling with my wonderful family.

Follow me on Twitter.

Small Biz Owners: Is Instagram Worth Your Time?

Using Instagram to market your small business
With over 200 million monthly active users—Instagram is officially a force to be reckoned with. 60 million photos are being shared every single day, all over the world. But how do you translate that into business success? Originally founded as a personal platform for sharing, cracking the code as a business takes a unique strategy.

So what is it about those perfectly square images that hold so much marketing power? For starters, the app allows you to automatically share your photos on your businesses’ other social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter. It also allows you to tell the story of your brand—through stunning visuals.

A picture speaks a thousand words, and it’s time for small businesses of all sizes to harness Instagram’s incredible potential. Here’s how.

  1. Stay True to Your Brand
    Instagram is a place to highlight and expand your brand’s unique story through images. It doesn’t matter if your focus is B2B or B2C—the app can be useful for any business. The important thing is to post photos and videos that capture the true essence of what you care to represent in your industry. Companies selling highly visual products have it easy. Those who sell a service might need to be a bit more creative. Consider giving your audience a behind-the-scenes look into what you do. Highlight your team or feature your clients. Be authentic and your followers will reward you.
  2. Apply the 80/20 Rule
    Just like other marketing efforts, your Instagram content can’t be all about you. If you’re looking to build more business, appeal to your target audience’s senses. Don’t focus 100% on making the sale. Your viewers will take notice, and unsubscribe. Think about what sort of images your audience would find appealing, and post that. Consider using the 80/20 rule—20% of your pictures highlighting your product or service and 80% building the brand with images that will appeal to your target audience.
  3. Collaborate with Other Users
    One great way to gain an engaged following on Instagram is to collaborate with other users. Find other businesses or influencers in your industry and find a way to be featured on their pages. You can also encourage your current customers to get involved by asking them to post a picture tagging your account. Consider running a photo contest or product give-away – by giving something to the Instagram community, you’ll get attention back in return.
  4. Utilize Hashtags
    Hashtags are your ticket to free advertising. Just like with Twitter, using the right hashtags can bring new eyes to your brand. Use hashtags that directly relate to the product or service you offer. Once you’ve established your brand on Instragram, you could create a hashtag campaign to increase buzz and engagement. Come up with a unique hashtag and encourage other users to use it in their posts.
  5. Create an Experience
    Perhaps the most exciting part about using Instagram as a small business is the endless amount of creativity you can use to enhance your viewers’ experience. Don’t underestimate the power of this app. Put in some time and effort with your creative team to put together a strategy and create high-quality content. Create a storyline that compliments your brand and leaves people asking—what happens next?

How do you use Instagram for your small business?

About the author:

Jenn Boutwell – VP Marketing & Strategic Alliances
I am a Sage One brand ambassador and team building virtuoso. Professionally I am known for building strong teams and organizing complex situations. I am passionate about making small business owners’ lives easier so they can spend more time on what they are passionate about. When I’m not running between meetings, I’m running half-marathons and training for a full marathon.

Drop me a line at jennifer.boutwell@sage.com.