It’s that time of year again—the time to look backward and take stock of the year almost past. What have we done well, what have we made a colossal mess of, and what made the year that’s about to be special and unique? If you don’t have a ready answer, don’t worry: there’s a list for that. While not all directly related to small businesses, the following 2016 best of lists will provide information, instruction, and inspiration that can help you and your small business thrive in 2017 and beyond.


The Best of Small Business

Best U.S. Locations for Your Small Business 2016

It just so happens that PaySimple’s home city of Denver, CO was AGAIN rated the best place for business and careers in 2016 by Forbes magazine on their The Best Places For Business And Careers 2016. “Denver nabbed the top spot for the second straight year thanks to its diverse economy, growth outlook and educated workforce,” Forbes writes. A new factor in this year’s ranking was the number of “highly educated millennials” in the work force. (Share of highly educated millennials is defined as people born after 1980 with at least a bachelor’s degree.) Denver’s 4th place ranking on this criteria (at 22.6% of the total work force, behind Austin, Seattle and Tacoma) along with high rankings for a number of other criteria including job growth, costs (business and living), income growth, and quality of life helped propel it to the top again. But if big cities aren’t for you, consider Bend, Oregon or one of the other places on the Forbes Best Small Cities For Business And Careers 2016 list.

The 2016 United States Small Business Friendliness Survey from Thumbtack surveyed 12,000 small businesses across the United States and asked about the “friendliness” (defined as a pro-business environment) of their state and local governments. The interactive map shows relative ratings for states in categories including overall friendliness, starting a business, tax code, zoning, and more. The most “friendly” states were Texas, Utah, Tennessee, and Colorado (yup, here we are again), and the least friendly were California, Connecticut, and Illinois. Among cities Atlanta topped the list, with Austin close behind and San Francisco coming in at the very bottom. This year’s report includes an in depth analysis of these cities.

Another look at the 50 States economic climate from the CNBC Global CFO Council put Utah at the top of the America’s Top States for Business 2016 list followed by Texas, Colorado (yes we’re hot this year), and Minnesota, and puts Rhode Island at the very bottom.


Best Small Business Finance 2016

Whether you need a bank, a loan, or a credit card there’s a best of list that’s got you covered.

Small Business Loans
For Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, start with the SBA list of 100 Most Active SBA 7(a) Lenders, which is updated quarterly, to find banks that both truly want to invest in small business, and that have the experience to make it a smooth process. If you want a non-bank option, check out Best Alternative Small Business Loans 2016 from Business News Daily. Or if you’re looking for a quick loan to bridge a temporary cash flow problem, Best Short-Term Business Loans 2016 from NerdWallet may provide a solution.

Small Business Banks
The Best Banks for Small Business from Fortune culls the MONEY Best Banks of 2016-17 list to call out banks that have product offerings that meet common small business needs. Key Bank tops the list for its friendly policies regarding low balances and unlimited transactions.

Small Business Credit Cards
Credit cards are a great way to manage small business cash flow, are an easy way to float short-term loans, and can even provide cash back, travel, and other rewards to small business owners. To find the card that best meets your exact needs, check out Best business credit cards: Top 3 picks for 2016 from Bank Rate, Best Small Business Credit Cards of 2016 from Nerd wallet, and Best Business Credit Cards from WalletHub. You’ll even find options for those with less than perfect credit.


Small Business Leisure

Even the most dedicated small business owner can’t work 24/7/365. (If you think you can (or must) check out my post How to Delegate Your Way to a Much Needed Vacation.) The Frommer’s Best Places to Go List for 2016 will help you pick a spot for that trip whether you want a beach, a mountain, or a big city. And since you have to eat, you might as well do it with taste and style. Check out the 100 Best Restaurants in America for 2016 list from Open Table; and The Best Restaurants in America list from for, “the 38 restaurants that defined dining in 2016.”


The Inspirational Best

You can’t grow a prosperous small business in a vacuum…there is just too much to try and too much to learn. That’s why looking to other winning entrepreneurs and business leaders for the lessons they’ve learned along the way and their paths to success is always a useful (and entertaining) education. What can you glean from:


Best Small Business Harmony of 2016

The 2016 Entrepreneur 360 is a list of small businesses that Entrepreneur magazine editors have identified as mastering, and harmoniously balancing, four key metrics: impact, innovation, growth, and leadership. “A business is a collection of parts: revenue, marketing, sales, staffing, and so on. A founder may be better at some than others. Some are simply harder than others. But to be a well-rounded, 360-degree business, they all must thrive,” Entrepreneur writes, “ We want to identify 360 small businesses each year that are mastering that continuous process—that keep all their parts growing in harmony.” The #1 spot on the list goes to in-store analytics company RetailNext.


Most Innovative Companies of 2016

Forbes Magazine continues tracking The World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2016, and once again Tesla Motors tops the list followed by SalesForce. The Forbes methodology involves extensive analysis and “relies on investors’ ability to identify firms they expect to be innovative now and in the future.” What is this ability and how do you harness it? Check out The Innovator’s DNA to learn more.


World’s Best Performing CEOs of 2016

The Best-Performing CEOs in the World list for 2016 compiled by Harvard Business Review ranks its picks for the top 100 performing CEO’s worldwide. The list rewards those that are able to resist, “the Lure of Short-Termism” and, “manage to train their sights on the long term and deliver strong performance over many years.” On average, the CEOs on the list “have been on the job for 17 years—and have generated a 2,091% overall return on their stock (adjusted for exchange-rate effects), or a 20.2% annual return.” Topping the list is Lars Rebien Sørensen CEO of Denmark healthcare company Novo Nordisk.


Best Media Performance of 2016

Your small business marketing efforts can benefit from studying some of 2016’s biggest hits and greatest flops. Take a look at AdWeek’s The 10 Best Ads of 2016 for their, “picks for the funniest, coolest, scariest and loveliest work of the year.” The winner is the visually stunning Under Armour, ‘Rule Yourself: Michael Phelps’ ad, but the #2 finisher (from Audi) is far more fun. Watch:

Also check out AdWeek’s 2016 Hot List of the year’s Top Magazines TV and Digital Media, the Best Global Brands 2016 Rankings from Interbrand, and The Best and Worst Branding of 2016 from Fast Company that highlights both the success of the new MasterCard logo and the hilarious failure of the initial (and short lived) Trump-Pence logo.


Best Tech and Apps

Finding technology best of lists on the web is like finding rice grains in paella, so you don’t need much help from me. But, no 2016 best of list would be complete without Apple’s ‘Best of 2016’ App list and Google Play’s “Best of 2016” list. (For a 3rd party point of view, also checkout The 100 Best Android Apps of 2016 and The 100 Best iPhone Apps of 2016 from PC Mag and the Best Android apps of 2016 from CNet.)

For some other technology related 2016 best of lists, check out:

If you’re up for a listen rather than a read, check out Wired Magazine’s The Best Stuff of 2016 podcast, where they tackle, “the best products, apps, and gadgets across all of the major categories. Phones, computers, cars, kitchen stuff, and everything else you want to know about.”


Best of Just-for-Fun in 2016

While none of these Best Of lists will help you optimize your small business operations, hopefully they will make you laugh and/or help you relax and enjoy a pleasant diversion.


Best Music of 2016

When it comes to music, Rolling Stone Magazine is arguably one of the best arbiters. The 50 Best Albums of 2016 list puts Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ in the top spot, with the late David Bowie’s Blackstar at #2, and Chance the Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’ at #3– if that’s not a testament to a genre-blind selection process, I don’t know what is. For an alternate list that leans to include classical and jazz, check out Best 50 Albums Of 2016 from NPR. And, if your tastes run more to rock Pitchfork’s list of The 20 Best Rock Albums of 2016 may hold some pleasant surprises and new discoveries for you.


Best Movies of 2016

If cinema is more your speed than music, consider seeing (in the theater or via streaming or rental) the very different selections from either (or both) of The Best Movies Of 2016 from the New Yorker or The Best Movies of 2016 from the NY Times, which is actually 3 best of lists, one from each NY Times movie critic. That I haven’t seen any of them likely speaks more to lack of time than taste, but a couple that cross lists include “Moonlight” and “No Home Movie.”


Best Books of 2016

What Rolling Stone is to music, the NY Times is to books. You can’t go wrong being guided by the NY Times The 10 Best Books of 2016 or 100 Notable Books of 2016. Amazon’s Best Books of 2016 is another good place to browse. Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” tops the Amazon list and takes 2nd place on the NY Times list behind Karan Mahajan’s “The Association of Small Bombs.” If you just can’t leave business even while reading, then consider any of the choices on the strategy + business Best Business Books 2016: s+b’s Top Shelf.


Best Drones of 2016

This year brings not one but two best of lists for drones, so upcoming FAA rules notwithstanding, if you want to get one for your small business to meet aerial photography needs, or just to have something cool to fly around the office, Best Drones For Sale And Why from and Best Drones of 2016 from CNet will help you pick a winner.


Best Cars of 2016

2016 10 Best Cars from Car and Driver magazine provides the editors’ picks for sub-$80,000 cars that embody, “new and improved combinations of virtues: value and engagement, performance and poise, sights and sounds, soul and character.” This year’s list is near and dear to my heart, as it again includes the BMW M235i, of which I am a delighted owner. “The M235i coupe stands as the right auto­mobile for just about any road, whether your daily commute is a stoplight horror or the sort of Alpine pass that BMW engineers slalom home on after heli-skiing weekends,” they write, and I wholeheartedly agree. My baby is bright red with all wheel “xDrive,” and you’ll find me in Denver jumping off stoplights just as often as you’ll see me lead-footing it home up the mountain to my foothills abode.


Best Beer of 2016

The top 25 beers of 2016 consists of Draft Magazine’s picks of craft beers that were new or newly packaged in the last 12 months. Draft calls them, “a testament to where beer is today—and, we can only hope, where beer will continue to go.” The picks range as far as Denmark, but most are in the US with California garnering the most mentions, though many states from Maine to Texas to New York are in the mix too. Colorado has 3 spots, including the #2 pick for Vanilla Bean Stout from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, of which Draft says, “If you think that an 11%-ABV bourbon barrel-aged stout could never be an everyday beer, this extraordinary drinkable version may give you pause.”


What better way to end the best of 2016 than with a beer? Cheers to a successful 2017!


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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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