Staples Launches Small-Biz Incentive Plan

Staples store front

Staples is launching a new campaign aimed at helping small business get its groove back, with a tough-love approach to New Year's resolutions. Its "stickK to it! Business Challenge" is scheduled to run from Jan. 12 through April 12, and uses an incentive-based form of goal-setting to motivate people to stay with their good intentions.

Staples' microsite allows small-business folk to select specific goals -- getting organized or saving the business money, for example. They can then use the site to track their progress while earning EasyPoints, which they can redeem for Staples merchandise and services.

The program is a partnership with, a goal-setting site gaining popularity for everything from dieting to giving up swearing. Developed by Yale University professors, the concept is based on research that has shown people are three times more likely to achieve their goal when incentives and accountability are on the line.



Since launching in January 2008, Staples says the site has collected 50,000 users and generated 30,000 Commitment Contracts -- binding promises to reach a personal goal. Users put their own money at stake -- a total of $3 million so far -- and are also subject to rulings by third-party referees when they fail to achieve their goals.

Staples says it is focusing on its small-business market now because there's a need, and its latest research has found that 80% of businesses don't monitor goal-setting. "As the economy turns around in 2010, small businesses will be eager to return to growth and jumpstart projects put on hold during the recession," the Framingham, Mass.-based retailer says in its release.

But small-business people also believe they are already working harder than ever, with 61% saying they suffer from "Ping-Pong" syndrome -- bouncing back and forth between the competing demands of emails, phone messages, employees, clients, and family. And while they are optimistic about the year ahead (44% think they will expand, diversify or innovate in 2010, with 48% expecting to maintain the status quo), they also expect to continue to keep a close eye on costs. Last year, 41% implemented stricter rules about expenses, and 26% reduced or eliminated business subscriptions.

Meanwhile, Staples' rival Office Max also is finding more optimism about the year ahead among shoppers. The retailer, based in Naperville, Ill., says that after a decade most consider incredibly volatile, 84% of those it surveyed are looking ahead to better days.

The poll -- which is intended to reveal how Americans viewed the past 10 years -- found that 39% believe the last decade will be remembered for the turmoil of 9/11; 23% say it will be remembered for the recession, and 22% for political events.

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