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North Carolina A&T forward Bruce Beckford (L) and guard Jean Louisme (5) block a shot by Liberty guard John Caleb Sanders (C) during the second half of their first round NCAA tournament basketball game against in Dayton, Ohio March 19, 2013 (MATT SULLIVAN/REUTERS)
North Carolina A&T forward Bruce Beckford (L) and guard Jean Louisme (5) block a shot by Liberty guard John Caleb Sanders (C) during the second half of their first round NCAA tournament basketball game against in Dayton, Ohio March 19, 2013 (MATT SULLIVAN/REUTERS)

Small business briefing

Why your small business should embrace the NCAA bracket Add to ...

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz.

Let the 'madness' into your workplace

March Madness is nye. In fact, in less than 24 hours, the NCAA men's basketball championship tournament officially kicks off. But if you're a small business owner, especially in the U.S., you may not exactly be thrilled, especially if you've been reading the countless studies on the inevitable drop in productivity that coincides with the 67-game period.

For example, in a 2012 survey, three million American workers said they spent one to three hours watching the tournament. Fourteen per cent said they would spend three to four hours per day, and 16 per cent spending five or more. Companies stand to lose at least $134-million in 'lost wages' in the first two days of the tournament alone, says an article in the Huffington Post.

But rather than look at the negative effects of the tournament, why not consider the benefits March Madness can bring to the office?

Clay Hebert, founder of the Spindows.com, figured out a way to revolutionize the traditional office pool while attending Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA program. In an article on the Young Entrepreneur Council website, he explains that instead of throwing in $10 to the office pool, everyone donates a skill.

After the tournament, instead of winning the pot of money, the winner gets his or her first pick from the skills pool. Second place gets second choice, and so on.

Mr. Hebert writes: "People generally do office pools to increase connection and camaraderie. But it doesn’t work. Nobody really cares about the $10 (and many people don’t even care about the tournament.) The Skill Swap actually does increase connection and camaraderie. Teaching that skill to a colleague helps everyone and brings employees closer.”

Along with building camraderie in the office, AOL's small business trends writer Steve Strauss offers four other compelling reasons to embrace the ‘Madness’:

  1. It's unifying (and I would add, non-discriminating): no matter the level of interest or age or sex, anyone can enter the pool, anyone can win;
  2. It's realistic: employees will be happier and more loyal if you embrace the tournament, rather than police it;
  3. It's a fine diversion: of all the distractions out there, namely celebrity gossip, NCAA b-ball watching is the least of all evils;
  4. It builds your business: having fun at work isn't a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing.

March Madness is one of the most exciting - not to mention fun - sporting events of the year. In fact, the NFIB had a little fun of its own with its own bracket that asks: what's your final four most maddening aspects of running a business?

Small businesses stick to traditional ad spends

While small businesses may drive the U.S. economy, they're spin their wheels when it comes to online advertising.

Of 550 small business owners surveyed by the Boston Consulting Group, the average business allocated a mere 3 per cent of their budgets to online ads. The majority continue to spend their dollars on traditional marketing vehicles including circulars and coupon mailers.

So how will small business owners make the shift to online advertising? It's all about word of mouth, says Kate Manfred in Bloomberg Businessweek. The co-author of the BCG study article says 'Knowing what worked for other people in their community was a key driver.' 

KEY EVENTS AND DATES

What would you do with $100,000? Start by entering Challenge contest

The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp. have launched their third annual Small Business Challenge contest, with a $100,000 business grant up for grabs. Businesses that want to apply need to describe the biggest challenge they are now facing, and how such a sum would help them overcome it. The contest, running until May 27, is open to small businesses across the country, except in Quebec, with fewer than 150 employees. What will judges be looking for? Find some clues here. How to enter? Have a read here. Want some more insights? Watch this video. For more information and to enter, click here.

Apply for the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award

The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award contest is open to all Canadian entrepreneurs aged 18 to 35 as of December 31, 2012. Applicants must also be Canadian citizens or permanent residents and run a Canadian-based business that has been in operation for at least two years and is in good financial health. They must have been responsible for their company’s day-to-day management for at least two years and must hold at least 20 per cent of the company’s capital stock. Contest entries can be submitted until April 2, 2013 at noon (EST).

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