How do you feel about the state of your small business? While many businesses have fully recovered from the Great Recession, problems persist among capital goods and inventory accumulation. This week’s Trending on Thursday details the latest national small business analysis, as well as providing you some summer marketing goals, ways you can leverage big data, and a fun, alternative way to motivate your employees while the weather is nice and warm.

Catch up on this week’s #smallbiz news below and tweet us at @MarlinBusiness with your summer marketing plan.

  1. TrendingJune16(1)U.S. small business confidence edged up in May amid growing concerns about weak sales growth, which are hurting spending on capital goods and inventory investment. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said recently its small business optimism index rose 0.2 point to a reading of 93.8 last month. Although it was the second straight monthly increase in the index, it remained below its 42-year average of 98. Analysts attributed the modest collective sentiment to weak spending on capital goods such as machinery, and a slow pace of inventory accumulation. Additionally, worries about anemic sales ranked high among small business owners. Fourteen percent of owners said weak sales were their main business problem, up three points from April.
  1. If you’re feeling down about sales, it might be a good idea to set some summer marketing goals for your small business. Setting goals is important for maintaining focus so you can grow your business. To that end, Brian Morris at Business 2 Community has detailed three summer marketing goals every small business should pursue. Here’s a preview: attend new networking events and try direct-mail marketing.
  1. TrendingJune16(2)Once your business thrives with real customers and solid revenue, what’s next? A straight line to success? Not quite. Just like on the Titanic, look out the window and you will spot icebergs, dead ahead, says Harry Red at the Huffington Post. These icebergs represent tough problems, which can deplete your time, energy and capital. To dig deep on this, Red talked to nine small business owners and learned what they struggle with. And guess what? Most of it boils down to three key challenges.
  1. Big data used to be only for enterprise companies. Now, even small businesses can afford to track and tap into a wealth of information. However, becoming a data-driven small business isn’t easy. Because you’re dealing with complex troves of records that have multiple sources and are therefore highly unlikely to be structured uniformly, it can be difficult to process it all and interpret it into insights your business can actually use. What’s more, many of the leading solutions require unreasonably expensive and lengthy onboarding processes. Patik Dholakiya details how your small business can make the most of the data available at your fingertips in this Small Business Trends article.
  1. The question for employers has always remained: “How can I make my workers perform at their very best?” Maybe yours is the classic case of the lazy worker and you’re wondering, “How can I transform him into the best employee on my team?” Of course you might have come up with a number of ways to deal with this problem in your organization: increased pay; a vacation (long or short); inviting motivational speakers over to the office to “inspire” the team, amongst others. But there’s another way you might not have thought of, according to Aj Agrawal at Inc.: using recreational activities to get the best out of your employees.