A weekly roundup of small-business developments.
What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.
The Deficit: Can Small Businesses Reduce the National Debt?
President Obama blogs about deficit reduction: go big! About that debt ceiling: Ezra Klein asks the question we’ve all been asking. A new poll reports that the president edges out the G.O.P. on helping small businesses. A Congressman says that small businesses are crucial to reducing this country’s debt. A massive deficit reduction plan is proposed by a staunch budget-cutter. Jared Bernstein says, “Consumer spending is way down, and it’s not getting much of a boost from jobs and paychecks. Which means that fiscal stimulus is about the only game in town, or it would be if policy makers weren’t spending practically every waking minute on budget cuts.”
The Data: A $300,000 Home Sells for $16
Mortgage refinancings surge but Wells Fargo reports a sharp decline in new mortgages. Existing home sales decline. Architectural billings fall. June housing starts, however, are at a six-month high and some economists think we’ve hit a housing bottom. A guy in Texas buys a $300,000 home for $16. American builders were slightly more confident in July, and the remodeling industry sets a record. Commercial property prices are increasing.
The Economy: A Slow Growth Decade Is Raging
As weekly jobless claims increase, here are nine signs the recovery might be losing momentum. Leading indicators grow slowly for the second month in a row. A well known forecaster says “a slow-growth decade is already raging. You feel it everywhere. And it’s going to get worse, much worse. A recession is virtually certain for 2012.” However, corporate cash is at an all-time high. David Beckworth concludes that the root of our problems lies in weak demand. The Hartford finds that we are optimistic about our personal finances, and (gasp) more are saving for retirement. A University of Helsinki study makes me re-think the benefits of gross domestic product growth. Borders is forced to liquidate, and Wharton’s Daniel Raff explains why this is bad for the entire publishing industry. Cisco cuts 6,500 jobs. Scott Grannis issues a money supply alert. Is Microsoft to blame for high unemployment?
Starting Up: Kauffman Wants Start-Up Legislation
The Kauffman Foundation proposes start-up legislation and laments that “start-ups are opening their doors with fewer employees and, once they get going, are hiring fewer people, regardless of the economic climate.” A microlender gives us eight crucial elements of start-up success, such as: “You want to raise enough money initially so that you can hit a major milestone and have something to show investors.” The founder of Cvent tells an inspiring story about his experiences as a start-up founder and dot-com era survivor. A 21-year-old sells her start-up for $21 million.
Marketing 1: Succeeding And Failing With Social Networks
Mediapost.com reports that Facebook scores low in customer satisfaction. Ever wonder which are the most expensive keywords for GoogleAds? Kristi Hines gives us four ways to increase traffic with Stumbleupon. Tim Hartford explains why social marketing doesn’t work. Example: “The first surprise, then, is that the typical Twitter cascade is both rare and tiny. Ninety per cent of Tweets are never re-tweeted, and most of the remainder are re-tweeted only by a person’s immediate followers, not by those at two or three removes.” More important: no new social networks were announced last week and, phew, a neuroscientist concludes that Google does not melt our memories.
Marketing 2: Men, Women, Cats and Dogs
New demographics contrast the shopping habits of men and women and dogs and cats. An infographic explains all of the ways to offer free shipping to customers. A research firm explains the five myths of selling to small businesses. Dan Ariely explains the tactics online companies use to get us to share more and spend more. Old Spice hires Fabio. American Express goes after Groupon.
Success Strategies: Anyone Know A Good Story?
Here’s how a bad economy can be the mother of invention. The Vancouver airport seeks a live-in storyteller for 80 days. Mark Perry explains why Wal-Mart is the most successful retailer in history. Chris Brogan creates “a private communication channel for aspiring Web entrepreneurs to learn how to build their businesses and grow their future.” New restaurant idea: build it under the sea. A video shares three lessons from Calvin Klein.
Your People: Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are
CareerBuilder is forecasting a better job outlook. In a Rasmussen survey, 75 percent support tough penalties against employers who hire illegal immigrants. A survey claims that by granting staffers early access to a percentage of their pay, small businesses can improve productivity and retention. A Staples Advantage survey shows telecommuters are happier and healthier. Some federal workers are more likely to die than lose their jobs. Employers debate letting workers sleep on the job. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, consultant and author, writes about the benefits of coming out: “L.G.B.T. employees who stay on track and make it into senior management are much more likely to be out than closeted: 71 percent compared to 28 percent of their closeted counterparts.”
Around The States and The World: Parking Tickets Mean Corruption
The Small Business Administration goes on tour. According to Urbanophile.com, our states give us a smaller scale model to find out what works and what doesn’t and can serve as test beds for new policy ideas. California’s mortgage defaults fall to a four-year low, but chief executives say it’s still the worst state for business. New York challenges Silicon Valley. A start-up hotbed in Cambridge fuels the Boston rental market. And yes, there is definitely a connection between unpaid parking tickets and corrupt governments. A brave man crosses the street in Vietnam like a boss. Manufacturing’s still weak in Philadelphia.
Finance: Happy Birthday Dodd-Frank!
The Dodd-Frank bill celebrates its first anniversary but is still under fire. The brand new consumer protection bureau faces a long debate. A venture capitalist says entrepreneurs need to understand the benefits of preferred stock: “Suffice it to say that this is an important term for investors, including me.” Steve Blank tells two awesome venture capital stories. Venture capital funding for Web start-ups hits a ten-year high, and Magic Johnson gets into the business. Ten banks own 77 percent of all American banking assets. Small businesses see a spike in loan approvals in June. Google plans (why not?) a credit card.
Technology 1: Hacking and Attacking Small Businesses
As the cell phone hacking scandal continues in the United Kingdom, Kurt Marko says yes, our voicemail can be hacked, too. Symantec says that 40 percent of targeted attacks are aimed at … small and mid-size businesses! Google warns of malware redirecting to its search results. Data loss affects half of small businesses. The S.B.A. is offering a free disaster recovery webinar. A Reddit founder has been indicted on fraud charges. The Internet survives a brief Lady Gaga outage. Businesspundit.com lists the top 10 online scams.
Technology 2: Should Apple Buy Goldman Sachs or Hulu?
Clint Parr explains how to use mobile apps to increase sales. Sprint waives long-term contracts. A $350 contract-free iPhone is on its way. Makeuseof.com lists five critical tools for a more productive virtual office. Apple could buy Goldman Sachs, but instead makes a play for corporate business (and maybe Hulu). New data shows that cloud computing is growing among small businesses. More than 50,000 businesses have signed up to try Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud application. ADP plans a mobile payroll app. Chris Pirillo offers five tips for creating better videos (Chris, can you please talk to this guy?). Adobe buys electronic signature provider Echosign. PCWorld’s Patrick Miller explains how to turn your gaming hobby into a small business.
The Week Ahead: Confidence? Growth?
Big numbers to watch: consumer confidence, new home sales, durable goods and advanced GDP predictions.
This Week’s Bests
Thoughts On Borders’ Liquidation: Kip Bodnar offers some marketing lessons from Borders’ bankruptcy: “Block off a couple of hours each day to really examine the disruption that is happening in other markets like music and publishing. What mistakes are being made? Why are the companies that are winning actually winning? Understanding the traits that make a successful business thrive during technology disruption will help to guide adjustments to your marketing strategy.”
Reason Technology Can Cripple Productivity: Matthew Might says to boost your productivity you may want to cripple your technology: “The productivity paradox, popularized by economist Erik Brynjolfsson, notes that computational power has advanced exponentially for decades, yet growth in labor productivity remains modest. While many factors explain the paradox, the one most relevant to modern knowledge workers is the dual capacity of technology to aid and to distract. To resolve this paradox, my guiding principle for productivity applies: Mold your life so that the path of least resistance is the path of maximum productivity.”
Philanthropy Idea: Tony Elumelu, investor and philanthropist, writes about the newly created African Markets Internship Programme: “At this moment, the A.M.I.P. is placing students from top African, European, and American business schools in highly structured programs with African companies. A.M.I.P. matches the unique skills of each intern with the particular needs of each host business to tackle their most pressing business problems.”
This Week’s Question: Does technology sometimes make you less productive? Do you know what I mean?