A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What’s affecting my clients, my small-business and other small-business owners this past week.
This Week’s Big Story: The Supercommittee Failed. Or Did It?
Congress balks at across-the-board cuts set off by the supercommittee’s failure. Barry Ritholtz says don’t blame the president. Michael Moran says it’s just politics. This guy doesn’t believe they failed at all. Kent Hoover says there are four consequences, and Diana Ransom explains what it means for small business. Senate Democrats respond with proposed legislation to add another $400 billion to the deficit. The G.O.P. says it’s willing to work with President Obama on payroll taxes. If you think you can fix the budget deficit, take the Pew Challenge. Randall Palmer and Louise Egan explain how Canada fixed its fiscal problem.
The Economy: Will Inflation Help?
Most economists are predicting no change in our economy or jobless rate next year. Paul Farrell expects very slow growth in 2012. The chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce looks to energy for job growth. Eighty-seven percent of the 1955 Fortune 500 are gone. NPR asks two economists if 5 percent inflation can kick-start the economy without killing it.
The Data: Bank Deposits Hit a High
Russell Investments releases its latest economic indicators. Global stocks hit a six-week low. A broker shuts his firm with a chilling letter about the markets. Existing home sales increase 1.4 percent. Manufacturing activity picks up in Chicago (pdf), stabilizes in Richmond and eases in Kansas City (pdf). Bank deposits hit an all-time record. The American Staffing Association’s Index reaches a new high. State unemployment rates change little. Gross domestic product is revised down. The American Trucking Association says the economy is not slipping into recession, but road traffic decreases. The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index hits its highest level since June. Personal income and consumption increase.
People: A Green Light for Holiday Parties
Here’s a flu prevention guide for the workplace. Most companies plan on having holiday parties this year. A company helps businesses benefit from employees who bicycle. Jason Segel cries on meeting Kermit. Drew Olanoff has advice for people who think that working for a start-up would be awesome. Olivia Solon reports that start-ups need to work hard to avoid hiring misfits. My advice: don’t put too much faith in an applicant’s college education. I’m pretty sure this is the luckiest pass ever.
Start-Up: Lots of Rock and Roll
Sammy Hagar introduces a rum brand, a rock star tries to become a tech star and the former personal manager for Axl Rose starts a new radio network. (And a 9-year-old covers “Crazy Train.”) Tara Tiger Brown was agape at a start-up event: “Imagine for a second what your reaction might be if you went to a panel to hear from other women about their experiences doing a tech start-up and a VC, the person that funds start-ups, told you that she thinks that women should work on things they are naturally gifted at, and she believes shopping is one of them.” Ebay acquires a recommendation start-up. Sprouter lists its hot start-ups of the week. Harvard opens a start-up incubator. The New York Times publishes a cool map of start-ups in New York City.
Ideas: Bill Clinton Has a Tactic
Roger Parker explains why so many dislike writing. But Bill Clinton’s crossword-puzzle tactic can help. The military invites small businesses to create wearable communications gear that mimics the feeling of explosions and bullets. CNNMoney presents a slide show of cool companies. A Harvard professor’s firm introduces a contest “to help organizations accelerate change and grow sustainably.” Denise O’Berry gives tips to avoid get-rich quick scams. Susan Solovic explains what small businesses can learn from Andy Rooney. Aileen Hannan recommends a few business-owner snacks to make decisions quickly. Nellie Akalp shares the entrepreneur’s guide to a good night’s sleep.
Marketing: Naughty and Nice
Allison has seven blog ideas for business owners. Jeremiah Owyang explains why your number of fans and followers is not a business metric. Here’s why business owners are holding back investing in social media. Consumer Reports releases its list of naughty and nice businesses for the holidays. Diane Mermigas says that retailers are missing an opportunity to reach shoppers with social and mobile commerce: “While consumers charge ahead, marketers and retailers generally are not positioning themselves to take advantage of the phenomenon.” Gary Levitt shares five commandments of small business e-mail marketing awesomeness. Here’s what it’s like to ride the world’s scariest roller coaster.
Around the World: That’s a Big Tip
Celebrating small-business owners in all parts of the world. More smartphones are being sold in China than in the United States. A Canadian small business shows a lean, mean entrepreneurial spirit by fighting obesity. China’s factory sector sinks the most in 32 months. Nargis Namazi lists 10 of the most innovative start-ups in India. Western Union and U.S.A.I.D. introduce the second “African Diaspora Marketplace.” Even as the number of small businesses in Australia dwindle, a man leaves $1.28 million in a Sydney restaurant. An underwater ice tornado kills everything it touches. A National Geographic photo contest is still accepting submissions.
Around the Country: Being Thankful Year Round
Mark Perry reports that a new era of oil and gas exploration promises to bring economic boom and 200,000 jobs to Ohio. Small-business owners make the case for being thankful all year round. A Florida beekeeper stays busy selling his honey locally. Arizona’s tax credits are rising for businesses. Some small-business owners have been getting squeezed by the N.B.A. lockout.
Finance: Raising Money on LinkedIn
Our wealthiest .1 percent make nearly half of all capital gains. Odysseas Papadimitriou explores the dilemma of whether to use personal or business credit cards: “the most savvy small-business owners use personal credit cards to avoid unwarranted interest rate increases on company debt and business credit cards for expense-tracking and rewards purposes.” Retailers sue the Fed over debit card rules. Groupon shares are collapsing, and Nate Hindman reports on new challenges the young company faces. Bookkeepers introduce a pilot project for small-business financing. A chief executive explains how he raised $230,000 in eight days using LinkedIn. The Fed seeks to bolster confidence in banks with new stress tests.
Red Tape Update: Don’t Worry About Non-Taxpayers
Tax compliance takes more than seven billion hours. Truckers need to file an important tax return by Nov. 30. The Internal Revenue Service introduces competency testing for tax return preparers. Paul Krugman discusses an analysis that says the optimum tax rate on the wealthy is 70 percent. A report says that most small-business owners do not feel overtaxed or overregulated. Ramesh Ponnuru says there are many things to worry about in this world — but “the number of people paying income tax isn’t one of them.” Pennsylvania starts creating its health insurance exchange. Kathryn Hawkins explains how to avoid patent-infringement lawsuits.
Technology: Getting Closer to Kevin Bacon
Google drops its plans to make cheap renewable energy. Katie Fehrenbacher lists 25 battery breakthroughs for gadgets, electric cars and the grid. Google has lured small business but few big companies away from Microsoft Office. Lifehacker gives tips on mastering the new Gmail. A slide show recommends 15 Android apps for business. But be careful: most mobile malware is aimed at Android phones. Taking your own device to work is becoming an accepted business practice. Chris Murphy explains why Ford just became a software company. Peter Schlegel offers a three-step guide to help determine if we really need a hot new technology. Researchers focus on wearable computers for our eyeballs. This video shows 25 interesting ways small-business owners are using QR codes. Technology has reduced my degree of separation from Kevin Bacon to 4.74.
The Week Ahead
It’s the end of the month, which means unemployment numbers are on the way. ADP reports on Wednesday, weekly unemployment claims come out Thursday and the national rate is released Friday.
The Week’s Bests
Analysis of What Chinese Consumers Want. Two McKinsey Company consultants report: “Many companies can acquire consumers in China’s poorer cities, which the government has targeted for development. For example, 15 percent of consumers in and around the city of Chengdu said they had started using personal care products only in the past year compared to just 1 percent in the more developed region around Hangzhou. That’s important for growth; many multinational companies still operate only in a handful of top-tier cities in China.”
Reason to consider employees before selling a business. A Canadian reporter says don’t forget to address human resource issues: “Regardless of the type of sale, it’s incumbent upon the parties to consider the H.R. issues that will arise. … In many cases, it will be advisable to incorporate a ‘holdback’ into the agreement, whereby a portion of the purchase price is either held back by the purchaser, or held in trust by counsel, for a specified period of time while the purchaser assesses the work force and makes any H.R.-related decisions. The holdback can then be applied toward the costs of those decisions, such as obligations arising in the event of the dismissal of certain employees.”
Explanation for why online customer service is the new marketing.Wendy Lea writes: “I used to be in customer relationship management, and we really weren’t helping companies get to know their customers better. We were helping customers forecast their sales better. It was about efficiency, not effectiveness. It wasn’t about honesty and transparency; it was about control. It was called ‘customer relationship management’ — it just never did that. … This inside-out strategy of C.R.M. bounded by people, process and technology has kind of been exposed and exploded by the Internet and consumerization of applications and a certain generation who wants to be online and wants answers fast and friendly. Companies have to rethink all this.”
This Week’s Question: Have you considered going after markets overseas?