March 25, 2023

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Analytics and Hashtags


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.


Kevin Colleran discusses the troubles of raising an entrepreneur. Cullen Roche says these are the three worst financial predictions from the past five years, and David Rotman explains how technology is destroying jobs.

Economy: Is Bernanke the Best?

The government’s finances continue to get better, Standard Poor’s upgrades its outlook for government debt, but the United States hits the debt ceiling anyway. Housing gains may be setting off an uneven small-business recovery. Dan Ritter lists four reasons that the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, may be the world’s best central banker. Mortgage applications increase and mortgage rates are the highest since March 2012. Retail sales (pdf) also increase. But machine tool orders drop, the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index continues to show worse-than-average conditions, and there were still 3.8 million job openings on the last business day of April (little changed from 3.9 million in March). Robert Reich wants a national economic strategy for better jobs.

Small Business Week: The Complete Schedule

Here’s the Small Business Administration’s complete schedule for Small Business Week. ADP will be a co-sponsor of some events and contribute to panel discussions on the new health care law. The UPS Store is also showing the love. The National Federation of Independent Business reports a rise in small-business confidence, and another survey says three of four small-business owners expect revenues to increase in the next year. But a Pew study shows that 70 percent of small-business owners see threats to their businesses and the economy from the lack of retirement security. The Hartford finds small-business owners are playing it safer.

Social Media: Analytics and Hashtags

Twitter opens up its Tweet analytics to everyone, free, and joins with JPMorgan Chase to encourage small businesses to advertise more. Facebook promises a more simplified advertising experience and introduces hashtags. A tanning salon’s text-messaging campaign generates $196,000 in its first 30 days. Will Oremus says people trust the National Security Agency more than they trust Facebook. This is everything you need to know to sell your stuff on Facebook, and Kim Stiglitz lists five Facebook metrics you should be watching. An entrepreneur sells his @AMD Twitter handle to Advanced Micro Devices for a charitable sum, and Hillary finally sends a tweet. Kelly Clay says that gaming LinkedIn is surprisingly easy (and John Sculley doesn’t really want to be your friend). This is how social media changes everything, and here are seven social networks to keep an eye on. This infographic reveals the best (and worst) times to post to social media.

Marketing: Old Spock vs. New Spock

A book from the founder of FreshBooks explains how to charge what you’re worth. A car commercial pits old Spock versus new Spock. David Daniels and Mike Hillyer share six secrets of successful e-mail senders. Amanda MacArthur suggests big ideas for small businesses that want to make their customers feel special, and Shep Hyken wants you to ask yourself: “Is what I’m doing right now going to get the customer to come back the next time he or she needs whatever it is that I sell?” This is what it takes to develop a brand, from conception to introduction.

Cash Flow: One Way to Save Money

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City is looking for inner city companies that need growth capital. These four companies are helping small businesses navigate the perils of shipping. A keyboard snooze turns into a huge bank error, and an entrepreneur saves money by moving to the woods.

People: What Makes Employees Stick Around

New technologies will help improve work force management, enable you to better track remote employees and use “telepresence” so that even workers out of the office can roam around the office. Some companies let employees buy extra time off or sell unused vacation time for cash. More employees are standing up for their workplace health while others learn a few lessons from the military. Laura Walter suggests 15 ways to create a happier work environment. This company can explain what makes employees stick around. This is how a 28-year-old got her job with Warren Buffett. Sixty thousand people sing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Here are three of the most common time wasters at work, and Paula Davis-Laack says life is too short to tolerate these 10 things. Here are the best 17 pieces of advice you’ll ever hear.

Start-Up: Exploding in St. Louis

A start-up that makes it easy for developers to add telephone calls and texting to Web sites and mobile apps wins a $70 million investment, and another start-up that brings Big Data to college search raises $4 million. A New York start-up tries to mobilize every small- and medium-size business in America. Colorado introduces a start-up every 72 hours, St. Louis’s tech start-up scene is exploding, and cities around the country hunt for the same magic. Alex Payne, formerly of Twitter, cautions young programmers who are considering careers in start-ups. Ellie Cachette has advice for start-ups that don’t fail but don’t succeed.

Management: What Jelly Can Do for You

Marina Krakovsky says one thing makes a company last forever. A June webinar will help you prevent manufacturing downtime. Tim Berry explains why decision-making is easier than decision-doing. Lajos Moczar says agile methodology promises many things, but the reality is often very far from the expectations. Some experts say information technology departments won’t exist in five years. If you work from home, you may want to try Jelly. Barbara Austin explains how to rise above the pack (without biting or clawing). This is how to be a team leader in a small business. Alexandra Franzen gives a backstage tour of her business, and a dog-groomer in Illinois explains how her business works.

Retail: Who Killed the Cash Register?

David Lipson has a few tips for cutting expenses in your restaurant. A restaurant uses a mini-helicopter to deliver food to tables. This is why millionaires shop at Wal-Mart in Canada. Here’s how small retailers can build a powerful, budget-friendly surveillance system. Two detectives want to find out who killed the cash register. Chris Petersen wonders if retailers should replace the four P’s with the four C’s. Microsoft will open stores in Best Buy locations.

Around the Country: A Black Market in Cronuts

Small businesses may be over the economic hump in Florida. An ADP regional employment report shows that the South Atlantic, West South Central and Pacific regions generated more than half of all new private sector jobs in May. A survey concludes small businesses are exporting more. Sam’s Club introduces a 25-city small-business “boot camp” series. Miami is the most “underbanked” city in the country. A black market in cronuts has appeared in New York City, and the city’s government has proposed a polystyrene ban. Entrepreneurs are celebrated in Louisiana. And here are five maps that show how divided America really is.

Around the World: Starting Up in Moscow

In Britain, a young entrepreneur organizes her town’s farmers’ market. British workers over the age of 65 reach a record one million. The nation’s industrial output increases, and some officials hope the royal infant helps the economy. China’s economy stumbled in May. More than 3,500 participants, including entrepreneurs, investors, business people, I.B.M. employees and Dmitri Medvedev, attended a start-up conference in Moscow. Niraj Choksi believes the biggest threat to the global economy could come from outer space. American shale resources have added 47 percent to global gas reserves.

Red Tape: No Light Sabers

The Internet’s big names battle to salvage their reputations after recent revelations about the National Security Agency (the story is better when told through these classic children’s books). The federal income tax quietly turns 100. Ed McCarthy lists 10 steps to avoid estate-planning mistakes. The Transportation Security Administration tries to take away Chewbacca’s light saber. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants announces a new financial reporting framework for small- and midsize entities. The Senate approves a five-year farm bill that would cut $24 billion from farm spending over 10 years, including a $4 billion reduction in food stamps. House Republicans have their eyes on a JOBS Act 2.0. And guess what: when businesses give judges money, the businesses usually get the rulings they want.

Ideas: The RoboRoach

A Kickstarter project promises a remote control to control live insects (the RoboRoach). A new door seal will keep conference rooms from becoming stuffy. Google reveals 90 regional finalists for its science fair. A report highlights growing opportunities in green markets. This is how Japan’s underground bike parking systems work.

Technology: Low-Tech Solutions

Apple unveils upgrades but some third-party developers say the company “ripped them off” with iOS 7. Hewlett-Packard introduces tech tools and a one-stop shop solution for small businesses. A Microsoft survey finds that once small businesses use the cloud, they consider it more secure than their own premises. Some believe Amazon will seize 3-D printing. Half of American homes own a tablet. An old-fashioned business copes with modern tech issues, and here are eight low-tech solutions for high-tech problems.

Tweet of the Week

@Hyken Employee engagement is real. And, it impacts the bottom line and customer service/experience.

The Week’s Best Quote:

Nate Kontny, an entrepreneur, discusses the importance of luck in his success: “I got lucky a writer with a lot of clout took interest in my project — interest that started because he once worked on a similar project seven years prior, so he understood the challenges I was addressing. … And I’m insanely lucky to have parents who taught me to persevere when I fell on my face. I’ve done that a lot getting here. But see, that’s the thing about luck. It has a funny way of showing up, when you keep showing up.”

This Week’s Question: Do you think the cloud is more secure than your own environment?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.

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You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Gordon Ramsay Calling!


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.


Tim Duy explains what Japan’s growth means for the rest of the world. And here are the social media lessons from a Gordon Ramsay nightmare gone viral.

The Economy: Cash Is Not Safe

Retail sales rise and household debt declines, driven largely by lower housing and credit card balances. Corporate earnings are at a historic high. The latest small-business confidence index ticks up. Builder confidence improves, too. But April’s producer prices and industrial production both fell, and the latest business inventories and sales numbers continue to show little improvement. A forecast predicts a plunge in gasoline prices. Business conditions in the New York region (pdf) deteriorate, and the New York Federal Reserve Bank says tight credit is restraining small-business growth. David Rosenberg explains why cash is your least safe bet, and Rex Nutting is convinced that everything is overvalued: “No one’s sure when the reckoning will take place, but it’s likely to be ugly when it does.” Joseph Biden agrees with a 7-year-old’s suggestion to make the world a better place.

Washington: Sequestration Watch

The Congressional Budget Office says the deficit problem is solved for the next 10 years. Paul Krugman says the case for austerity has crumbled, but Keith Hennessey says it’s too soon to celebrate. Jared Bernstein submits the fourth installment of his “sequester watch.” The Federal Reserve, whose policy has pushed some start-ups to be valued at a billion dollars, may ease up on monetary easing this summer. Here are a few buzzwords to watch as the Fed plots its exit strategy. Joe Weisenthal reveals the real reason people bash Ben S. Bernanke and John Maynard Keynes at conferences. A bunch of economists offer advice to graduates.

Your People: Hourly Workers

Alex Befekadu lists seven employee types that you should fire. Joanne Sammer takes a look at what constitutes a healthy work/life balance and how companies can achieve that goal. A study finds that freedom is the top reason for quitting and that millennials want to be entrepreneurs (but that doesn’t always mean starting businesses). Here are four steps to hiring hourly workers this summer. Crispin Jones explains the benefits of having a diverse workplace. Here are five ways to deliver bad news to employees (and the best ways to open a beer).

Finance: A Trip to Mars

André Mouton believes that if venture capitalists aren’t interested in crowdfunding, maybe you should be (apparently, Donald Trump is interested). Jeff Hindenach explains why credit cards remain a viable option for small businesses. Kabbage expands its small-business financing (using QuickBooks data), and NASA is offering $9.8 million to small and midsize businesses for a trip to Mars. Joe Taylor gives advice for building a profitable banking relationship, but here are some alternatives if you cannot. And here are two helpful online valuation tools to find out how much your business is worth. Bayer HealthCare goes on a start-up hunt. Retiring baby boomers are driving the sales of small businesses.

Start-Up: Controlling Fear

Ken Oboh says start-ups should ditch their “go big or go home” mentality. Peter Thiel’s first investment in Europe has gone to a London-based start-up in financial technology. A life coach explains how to control the fear of starting a small business. Two start-up founders were not afraid to sleep in a van for months on end. Here’s how start-ups can get cheap office space and three ways to jump-start your dreams. Morgan Hartley and Chris Walker explain why your city needs a start-up scene. A venture capital firm is eager to invest in start-ups in Charlotte, N.C. A start-up “dream team” is looking for 45 young aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world to join a nine-week summer program in Silicon Valley. This is how one entrepreneur started three businesses by age 32.

Management: Go to Bed

Todd Wasserman explains key performance indicators. Julia Kirby says that if you want to change the world, you should get to bed by 10 p.m. Here are eight easy ways for your business to go green, and Jim Smith explains what your business can learn from the $1 cups at Starbucks. Communicating with energy is one of the five most important business skills. According to an American Express study, 70 percent of entrepreneurs say they purchase and source goods and services from other small businesses. A survey reveals the DNA of America’s small-business owners.

Marketing: The Ultimate Pitch

Here is how Lowe’s is making its customers smarter with six-second videos on Vine. Pamela Wilson has suggestions for getting customer testimonials that will convince even the most skeptical prospects. Mark Emond writes that there are four foundational elements of marketing analytics success. Suren Ter-Saakov explains what is important about competitive analysis. Diane Carlson warns not to make these business card mistakes. Jill Konrath says this is the ultimate sales pitch. A contract manufacturer shares eight marketing tips.

Around the Country: A $50,000 Challenge

An Alaskan town will vanish by 2017. In tornado-hit Joplin, Mo., employees of local businesses chip in again to rebuild. A new Colorado law provides recourse for discrimination against workers at companies that employ fewer than 15 people. Constant Contact joins with Staples and Score to host free webinars. CNBC’s new small-business show introduces a $50,000 challenge. In Chicago, mothers are showing their children the real estate ropes. In Pennsylvania, four businesses receive energy-efficiency and pollution-prevention grants, registration opens for a small-business expo on government contracting and a small-business conference plans a summer debut in Philadelphia.

Around the World: Manufacturers Coming to U.S.

The euro zone recession continues into its sixth quarter, and the social mood darkens. The United States oil boom leaves OPEC sidelined from demand growth. Japan’s economy expands faster than expected. A youth hockey brawl breaks out in Russia. China’s industrial production grew 9.3 percent in April. Jeffrey Telep and Joshua Snead report that global manufacturers are moving production to the United States. The proportion of British-based small businesses targeting the growing international market for low-carbon products has doubled in the past two years.

Social Media: Exclamation Points

Amanda McCormick wants to know how you are using social media to market your business. Dan Zarrella finds that exclamation points get more retweets but fewer clicks. LinkedIn bans users from promoting prostitution and escort services, but this is not why the social media service annoys Benedict Evans. Christopher Null wonders if Google Plus matters for small businesses.

Red Tape: Deficiencies

The Government Accountability Office finds 60 deficiencies in the Internal Revenue Service’s internal controls, and Jon Stewart weighs in. The Obama administration announces three advanced manufacturing innovation institutes. A survey reveals a lingering uphill battle for the new health care law, but Emily Maltby and Angus Loten wonder whether the law may create new entrepreneurs. Sarah Kliff explains what will happen if you don’t pay the tax penalty, and a small-business owner explains the hard facts of the health care law to employees.

Online: Call to Action!

Seth Godin explains why they call it a browser: “Call it attention inflation. More time spent looking, less time spent clicking.” A company that provides legal services to small businesses is now accepting Bitcoin as payment (and Amazon introduces its own virtual currency). OpenSky becomes another “interesting competitor” in the online marketplace. Here are some keyword strategies to draw people to your site, and here is how to use calls to action in your next e-mail campaign. Roger Kohl tells you everything you need to know about “the scariest search engine” on the Internet. Here are Time magazine’s best Web sites of 2013, and here are 16 steps to hosting a successful webinar. Did you know that 70 percent of consumers trust online reviews?

Retail: Bike Lanes Are Good

Square unveils hardware for its point-of-sale iPad registers, Groupon officially introduces its own point-of-sale system, and PayPal unveils a program to compel small merchants to throw away their cash registers. Also, keep your eyes on these shopping-cart-mounted tablets that will detect nearby items and offer recipes in real time. Fred Lizza says cloud retail can transform your business, and these are the benefits of a cloud-based inventory management system. A survey finds restaurant sales and traffic improved in April. Restaurant marketers are waking up to a $50 billion breakfast opportunity, and millennials are propelling the growth of the sandwich industry. Bike lanes happen to be good for local businesses.

Mobile: Dead in the Water

Nearly 75 percent of all smartphones sold in the first quarter were Android-based, and this chart shows that the iPhone’s market share is “dead in the water.” It is now estimated that the mobile marketing industry may employ 1.4 million people by 2015. Tobin Dalrymple suggests five ways to publish content on mobile. Here is a guide to mobile productivity apps, and Brian S. Hall shares six mobile apps created by nontech companies. Jon Gold explains why everyone is still confused by mobile management. BlackBerry will introduce BBM for iOS and Android this summer. A coming webinar looks at small-business adoption of mobile.

Technology: Texting to Landlines

Google is offering free unified storage across its services along with a way to send money by Gmail. Here is everything Google announced at its developer’s conference (which is also where the company’s chief executive said he wanted to start his own country). A company introduces texting to landlines. Michael del Castillo shares the lessons learned from five huge tech flops. Megan Totka suggests five customer relationship management tools for small businesses. Windows Blue may leave customers seeing red.

Tweet of the Week

@dansinker – How long does a keynote have to last before it’s considered a hostage situation?

The Week’s Best Quote

Charlie Hamilton shares a few lessons from the lemonade stand: “Successful adults often worked when they were young. They mowed lawns, baby-sat, or had a lemonade stand. Learning how to work hard, provide good customer service, overcome challenges, ask for the sale, and understand the value of a dollar are invaluable life lessons that kids simply can’t get from a textbook.”

This Week’s Question: Would you buy a point-of-sale system from Groupon?

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.

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You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Dish Mobs


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.

The State of the Union: ‘Incredibly Ambitious’

The president delivers an “incredibly ambitious” State of the Union address. Republicans respond by taking an awkward water break and saying the speech dims hopes for a deficit-reduction deal. Here’s a summary in graphs. Kent Hoover thinks President Obama gave little attention to small businesses, and John Tozzi explains what happened to his big plans. Preschoolers just find him boring. Here are 17 brilliant faces Joe Biden made during the speech. Professional employer organizations applaud the president’s commitment to lifting burdens on small businesses. As mentioned in the speech, Apple will make Macs in the United States (but create only 200 jobs). The president and business groups differ on minimum wage, and a business coach explains why folksiness works in speeches.

The Budget: Big Cuts

The United States posts a $3 billion surplus for January and the slower growth of health costs is easing the deficit. Tax revenues are expected to double by 2023. Richard Kogan shows just how big the pending automatic sequestration cuts will be, and Catherine Clifford explains how the cuts could affect small businesses.

The Economy: A Gulf in Optimism

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job openings were little changed from the previous month. Gas prices hit a historic high. Small-business confidence is still low, and Catherine Rampell reports on the gulf in optimism between small and large businesses. Affluent Americans are downbeat on the economy, and even though there’s some consumer optimism, Americans are struggling to save. Export price deflation continues, and Brian Lane investigates what’s behind the declining number of factories. But machine-tool orders rose in December, and farmers enjoyed their strongest net income in 40 years. Retail sales increased for the third straight month.

Marketing: Dish Mobs

American Express introduces a purchase-by-tweet service, and Emily Guy Birken explains how retailers manipulate their customers into spending. This is the best Final Jeopardy answer ever. G.B. Oliver has advice for getting blogs to mention your products. Here are three marketing tips for lawyers, and here are seven magical marketing lessons from Disney World. Prowling “dish mobs” aim to benefit local restaurants. Bobbi Klein says that your best friend may hold the keys to your next big client. And make sure you are not making these five sales mistakes.

Your People: Plotting an Exit?

And speaking of mistakes, here are four not to make when managing older employees. Bacardi Bottling faces penalties for alleged safety violations after a temporary worker’s death. Warm weather makes it harder to think straight. A start-up reinvents the workplace with reclaimed pallets. Rob Toledo offers ways to collaborate with coworkers remotely. E-mail, surfing the Internet and watching TV are among the worst office-productivity killers. In a sign of economic recovery, more people are quitting their jobs, and Brian O’Connell warns that your best employees may be plotting an exit. A Canadian university’s “puppy room” offers stress relief during exams.

Men Versus Women: Socially Savvy

Female-owned small and mid-size businesses are more upbeat and socially savvy than those owned by males. These are the jobs with the biggest (and smallest) pay gaps between men and women. Female entrepreneurs say search engine optimization and social media are the future of  marketing. Anne Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning for the State Department, explains how companies can make life better for both women and men. Angel investors are looking to finance companies led by women in Ohio (and beyond). A leading mobile and online advertising company does a “data dive” and finds that men and women behave differently on the phone. A high school girl makes a shot that must be seen to be believed.

Management: Five Hot Franchises

Justin Timberlake joins the “dumb creative director” hiring boom. Carnival customers experience another cruise-ship nightmare, and Will Ferrell handles security at a Lakers game. Rhonda Campbell says it’s time to automate your business processes to save time and money. The owner of an auto-detail business explains the importance of details like calling people back on the same day. These are five hot franchises you may want to consider, and here’s how doing a store makeover can take your business to the next level.

Online: Social Media in 20 Minutes a Day

Here are five W’s that are instrumental to your Web site’s success. Debbie Hemley lists 26 ways to market your business with Tumblr. Michael Boland explains what Google’s enhanced campaigns mean for small- and mid-sized businesses: “Google is using the stick instead of the carrot.” Google Plus is gaining ground with brand marketers. Chris Silver Smith says there are thousands of things small businesses can do to improve their ranking and appearance in search engine results, but the top S.E.O. tactic right now is to incorporate the author markup. Saman Kouretchian says there are four reasons your small business needs to be on YouTube. Amanda Jacobs has tips for managing your social media in 20 minutes a day. This guy puts an end to Harlem Shake videos.

Red Tape: Most-Taxed Cities

Virginia cuts its state employees’ hours to avoid providing health care coverage. The Obama administration introduces a Smart Disclosure Data community to “empower Americans with the data and tools they need to make more informed choices in the marketplace.” Here’s why you should take advantage of government contracting opportunities. These are the 10 most taxed cities in the United States, and this is not a good way to watch an archery competition.

S.B.A.: Karen Mills Steps Down

The economic environment is turning around for America’s small businesses, according to a new report released by the Small Business Administration. The S.B.A. recognizes Doreen Wade as the Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year. It also announces one webinar series promoting entrepreneurship education and small-business growth and another about retirement savings plans for small-business owners and their employees. The S.B.A. also announces a program to train entrepreneurs in underserved communities. The National Small Business Innovation Research Conference is scheduled for May 14-16 in Washington. And Karen Mills steps down as head of the agency.

Finance: Managing Receivables

This is everything you need to know about offering trade credit. A Main Street lender raises $42 million. Meredith Wood says that “only accepting checks” is one of six ineffective ways to manage receivables. Matthew Toren outlines seven steps to ensure a successful online fundraising campaign. A panel discusses the secrets for start-ups looking to work with big corporations. Jeff Thomson says that there are signs that indicate when a small business needs a chief financial officer.

Around the Country: Your Favorite Small Business

A Russian company opens a location in northern Kentucky, and zombies attack Montana. Joe Brancatelli believes that the the US Airways-American merger will “stink for business travelers, at least for a while.” An unofficial spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill dies of a heart attack. Banana Joe wins big at the Westminster Dog Show. North Carolina approves steep benefit cuts for the jobless. A subcontracting school is introduced in Washington, D.C. A contest lets you nominate your favorite small business to win a $5,000 giveaway.

Around the World: It’s Raining Spiders

Economist Mark J. Perry predicts an acceleration in global economic growth, the 30 most powerful bankers explain how to fix the world economy (hint: let the bond market do it), and Paul Krugman says Sweden has the answers to America’s tax problems. The International Energy Agency trims its outlook on global oil demand. The European Union and United States are negotiating a potentially game-changing free trade deal. Industrial production in Europe increases more than expected but Germany’s economy shrinks and Anthony Harrington wonders if Britain is going bust. But the London Stock Exchange is changing its rules to try to lure the next Google. Spiders rain down on Brazil. India’s industrial output shrinks again, and its car sales are the worst in a decade. China tops the United States in global trade, while Japan’s economy sinks deeper. Egypt bans YouTube for a month. Here’s how long it takes to become a millionaire in various countries.

Technology: Apple’s New Products

A privately held Dell may be a boon for entrepreneurs. Microsoft plans to introduce interactive TV shows before the end of the year. Bill Gates says he likes to “tour interesting things with my kids, like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos.” QuickBooks Online gets an iPad app to help small businesses do their books on the go. A tech analyst expects the small and medium-size business cloud market to grow. Apple has 100 people working on a wristwatch — and a bunch of other interesting products reportedly in development. Here’s everything you need to know about 3D printing, and here’s what happens to those kids who win the Google Science Fair.

Tweet of the Week

@neiltyson – Times have changed: Kennedy: “Let’s go to the moon.” Obama: “Lets repair our infrastructure.”

The Week’s Best

Brad Farris says that giving honest, immediate feedback is a leader’s first job: “Good feedback is future-oriented, giving people something to move toward, not something to move away from. When you tell someone, ‘I never want you to say that again,’ that says what not to do, but isn’t very helpful about what he could or should be doing. Try offering your feedback in the form of ‘I wish …’ or ‘I’d like to see …’ or ‘How could we …’ These phrases offer a direction for the person to pursue.”

This Week’s Question: Has your company made a Harlem Shake video? (Will you promise not to?)

Gene Marks owns the Marks Group, a Bala Cynwyd, Pa., consulting firm that helps clients with customer relationship management. You can follow him on Twitter.

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U.P.S. Reports a Loss and Forecasts Lower Profit in 2013

U.P.S. followed a stream of other big companies like Rockwell Automation and Northrop Grumman that were also weighed down by pension-related charges. A prolonged period of low interest rates is driving up companies’ pension costs.

Even factoring out the $3 billion noncash pension charge, U.P.S., the world’s largest package-delivery company, reported a fourth-quarter profit that still missed Wall Street’s expectations.

U.P.S. said it faced a $225 million rise in pension costs this year.

“This will be a significant drag in 2013,” the chief financial officer, Kurt Kuehn, told investors in a conference call.

The company expects earnings to rise 6 to 12 percent in 2013, from $4.80 to $5.06 a share, below the average Wall Street target of $5.11.

“It’s going to come down to worldwide economic growth,” said Helane Becker, a Dahlman Rose analyst.

U.P.S. posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $1.75 billion, or $1.83 a share, after the pension charge, in contrast to a net profit of $725 million, or 74 cents a share, in the period a year earlier.

Revenue rose 2.9 percent, to $14.57 billion from $14.17 billion. U.P.S. said costs related to Hurricane Sandy, which pounded the New York metropolitan area in late October, sliced profit by 5 cents a share in the quarter.

Factoring out one-time, noncash items, profit came to $1.32 a share, below the analysts’ average estimate of $1.38, according to Thomson Reuters.

“We remain in a cycle of mixed growth and mixed signals,” the chief executive, D. Scott Davis, told investors in the conference call. “Fiscal uncertainty continues to erode business confidence and growth prospects.”

A Morningstar analyst, Keith Schoonmaker, said one good sign in the quarter was the 7.7 percent rise in next-day air shipments in the United States.

“We need to cut through the pension clutter and look at economic results,” Mr. Schoonmaker said. “This is a company that has tremendous operating capability, so when you feed them a little bit more volume into their system, this company is able to make hay with that.”

U.P.S.’s largest American rival, FedEx, has been struggling with falling profits as customers increasingly send goods by ground, which is less costly and less profitable than by air.

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DealBook: Despite Calm, Draghi Raises Economic Concerns

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos on Friday.Pascal Lauener/ReutersMario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos on Friday.

DAVOS, Switzerland — Calling 2012 the year the euro was renewed, the president of the European Central Bank expressed concern that calm on financial markets had not yet led to economic growth and better lives for European citizens.

Mario Draghi, the central bank president and the person who can probably take more credit than anyone for the relative tranquility that greets visitors to the World Economic Forum this year, used an appearance here to take stock of the state of the euro zone.

Mr. Draghi said that central bank measures last year had prevented a banking crisis. And he also praised government leaders for steps they took to strengthen the currency union, for example agreeing to put the central bank in charge of supervising banks — a change that will be phased in over the next year.

World Economic Forum in Davos
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And the net effect of those moves? ‘‘To say the least, the jury is still out,’’ Mr. Draghi said. ‘‘We haven’t seen an equal momentum on the real side of the economy. That’s where we have to do some more.’’

The euro zone economy has stabilized at a very low level, Mr. Draghi said, and should begin to recover in the second half of 2013.

Data released Friday supported the thesis of a gradual recovery. The Ifo business climate index, a closely watched indicator of business confidence in Germany, rose more than expected. The survey suggested that the euro zone’s largest economy is growing again after a contraction at the end of 2012.

What’s more, the central bank said Friday that more euro zone banks than expected had chosen to make early repayment of three-year central bank loans they took out a year ago. The volume of early repayment is seen as a sign that at least some banks are healthier than they were, and able to raise money on their own. The central bank said 278 banks would pay back 137 billion euros, of a total of 489 billion euros they borrowed a year ago at exceedingly low interest rates.

Banks could borrow the money at the central bank’s benchmark interest rate, currently 0.75 percent. But some may have felt that there was a stigma attached. Even though the European Central Bank does not disclose borrowers, banks may have been concerned about appearing weak in the eyes of the central bank. In addition, banks needed to post bonds or other assets as collateral, and some may now prefer to deploy the assets elsewhere.

Looking ahead, Mr. Draghi described 2013 as a year of implementation, when the European Central Bank and governments would begin carrying out decisions they made last year.

The central bank would begin assuming authority over banks, he said, and governments would carry out changes intended to improve their ability to respond to crises and police each other’s spending. As central supervisor, the central bank is expected to be more willing than national regulators to force sick banks to confront their problems.

Mr. Draghi defended the central bank’s position that euro zone governments must continue to work to get spending under control. Austerity — a word Mr. Draghi said he did not like — has been a de facto condition for measures the central bank has taken to contain the crisis and give governments space for economic reforms.

‘‘Fiscal consolidation is unavoidable,’’ Mr. Draghi said during onstage questioning by John Lipsky, a former first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund. ‘‘There can’t be any sustainable growth, any sustainable equity achieved through an endless creation of debt.’’

But Mr. Draghi conceded that budget cutting could push countries into recession, and he said governments should cut spending on operations rather than curtailing outlays for infrastructure projects like bridges and roads.

Asked by Mr. Lipsky whether the central bank would follow the Federal Reserve in setting benchmarks for unemployment that would prompt the central bank to lower rates or take other action, Mr. Draghi said no.

But, in what could signal a subtle shift in the central bank’s thinking, Mr. Draghi suggested that the bank can pursue economic growth as part of its prime mandate to defend price stability.

‘‘We have given plenty of evidence we can do so within the existing framework,’’ Mr. Draghi said.

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You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Reinventing the Toilet


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

What’s affecting me, my clients and other small-business owners this week.

The Big Story: A Running Mate

Mitt Romney picks Paul Ryan. Here are Mr. Ryan’s positions on small-business matters, and here is a discussion about whether Mr. Ryan is  the right candidate for small businesses. Aaron Carroll digs into Mr. Ryan’s Medicare proposals. Jillian Berman wonders whether Wall Street will like him. The president of the National Federation of Independent Business explains why small businesses are so big in politics. Bill Murphy Jr., offers five lessons in entrepreneurship to be learned from Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney.

The Economy: Breweries and Wineries

July retail sales jump, and some big box retail stores are growing. Breweries and wineries are also seeing significant growth. June conveyor shipments are up 35 percent over the previous year, and industrial production increases. Builder confidence continues to improve, but machine-tool orders slip and conditions in the New York region (pdf) have deteriorated. Small-business confidence declines, Google’s Motorola Mobilityis cutting 4,000 jobs, and FedEx is offering buyouts to employees. Timothy Taylor laments the country’s stagnant R.D. effort. Consumer prices stay flat, producer prices climb more than expected, and Lam Thuy Vo explains what the prices on a very old menu can teach us about the economy. Meanwhile, the nation’s economists are quietly evacuating their families (according to The Onion, anyway).

Technology: Reinventing the Toilet

A new report says New York small businesses face a technology gap; barely half feel they are using technology enough (pdf) to be competitive (and a third do not have a Web site). Among some cool new ideas: bacteria-eating viruses that may power cellphones, software to prevent texting behind the wheel, an implant that helps blind mice see and an advance that could turn wastewater treatment into an electricity producer. Bill Gates sponsors a reinvent-the-toilet challenge. Samsung expands its lead in the smartphone market but Research In Motion is not giving up. Pinterest introduces iPhone and Android apps. Google Plus introduces studio hangouts for musicians. American broadband growth slows. Brian Moylan suggests five apps  the world desperately needs, including one that will let you do the following: “At a party, you run into a guy who greets you by name. You’ve met before, but you have no idea who he is. Snap a subtle photo of him. The software uses facial recognition software to troll Facebook and Google Image searches to ID him.”

Your People: Do You Delegate Too Much?

Gad Levanon sums up the main trends in the labor market. Josh Tolan explains how to use video to recruit talent. Disney is sued by a Muslim employee over its dress code. Devan Perine reports that healthy employees contribute to healthy businesses. A Somali pirate becomes professional. Peter Nguyen discusses the delicate nature of delegating: “Not everything in your business should be delegated. … Make sure you are the one signing legal documents, closing deals with big clients, handling big press publications and keeping a close eye on company numbers, even with a C.P.A.’s help.” (Jay Goltz reveals the one task he can’t delegate.) Researchers at Small Business Labs say that Gen Y is delaying adulthood. A trucking company announces a program for owner-operators.

Management: The Dumbest Questions

Bradley Collins explains how public libraries are a boon to small businesses. This little accounting trick is behind 30 years of scandal. Here are five ways to make your business stand out, including: “Don’t be a jack of all trades.” The terms “F-bomb,” and “sexting” are in the new Merriam-Webster dictionary. Here are three reasons not to discount your prices. Martin Zwilling says the best entrepreneurs ask the dumbest questions. Marcus Sheridan shares a story of rejection and growth. In this video, Kirby Ferguson explains why everything is a remix.

Your Marketing: No More Robocalls

Citibank’s senior vice president for social media says: “In most cases, customer service in social media or social service is a failure.” But a bigger brain may help. A new tool will help drive customers to buy from more ethical businesses. Telemarketers are now prohibited from using recorded messages in New York. These five brands use education to engage. Mike Vickers explains how to become preferred in business. Here are four marketing tips from a Canadian convent and a few e-mail tips learned from “Seinfeld.” Jill Konrath suggests some e-mail prospecting tips of her own.

Start-Up: Immigrants Start Businesses

Immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in America in 2011 — despite accounting for just 12.9 percent of the population. This start-up feeds other start-ups (literally). A tech entrepreneur explains how Europe (yes, Europe!) is rocking the start-up world. A start-up wants to resell old digital songs. A membership club aims to soothe start-up stress with elite deals and access. Susan Schreter learned these lessons from Oprah Winfrey’s start-up, including: “It’s not ever wise to initiate customer-facing operations without 100 percent leadership attention and focus.”

Finance: Join the Club

Robert Moore describes the clubby world of venture capital. Eric V. Holtzclaw offers tips for getting cash faster. A report says that almost half of United States bank account holders will be using mobile banking by 2017. Small businesses are having trouble getting microloans.

Around the Country: Chinese Diapers

Niagara Falls, N.Y., takes a broad approach to attract more people. These five graphs show how crazy it is to compare California to Greece. Real estate in Minneapolis is hot. Syracuse may be the next city headed for bankruptcy. Frito-Lay rolls out more electric trucks in California. A paper mill reopens to make more diapers for the Chinese, and a Chinese firm looks to invest $1 billion in a Texas clean energy project. Carbonite is holding a disaster-planning webinar for small businesses. A walk-on football player gets a scholarship.

Around the World: Russia Grows, Europe Sinks

Troubles abroad keep cash flowing to the United States. Russia posts a 4 percent growth rate even as Europe sinks back into recession. Africa grows too hot to grow chocolate. Grenada did the best at the Olympics (per capita).

Red Tape: Social Security Turns 77

It’s the 77th anniversary of Social Security, but its surplus is dwarfed by future deficits. An egg-regulation bill is being pushed in Indiana. The new immigration rules go into effect. The cost of the auto industry bailout goes up, and Michael Panzner believes the job market and auto-buying market are out of sync. Daniel Costa says the State Department just created 4,000 new jobs in Alaska.

Tweets of the Week

@pamslim: Happy Sweet 16th birthday my self-employment. You have given me an amazing life along with a great living. Thank you!

@alanlepo: My new business plan. Rebuild some type of collaboration tool from 1995 using shinny new web and mobile tech and call it innovative.

@TheJoeGirard: You’re not gonna find business sitting down and blaming the recession.

This Week’s Question: Have you tried to get a microloan?

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Economic Reports Surprise in Britain and Germany

While official data showed the British economy shrank more than expected in the fourth quarter, raising concern about another recession, a closely followed business confidence index in Germany beat economists’ forecasts for January, a sign that Europe’s largest economy is improving.

“It fits into a pattern we’ve seen for a while that Germany has tended to outperform other countries,” Eckart Tuchtfeld, an economist at Commerzbank, said. “This is not a one-off. The economic situation in Germany has improved” since the last quarter of 2011.

The Ifo institute’s business climate index rose more than some economists predicted in January for a third month in a row, with manufacturing and service industries, especially, performing better than expected. Sales at carmakers such as Daimler and Bayerische Motoren Werke jumped last year. SAP, the business management software maker, on Wednesday forecast higher earnings for this year.

In Britain, the economy is struggling to avoid falling back into a recession. Gross domestic product fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of last year from the third quarter, more than the 0.1 percent some economists forecast, the government said Wednesday. Manufacturing shrank 0.9 percent; London has been trying to stimulate the sector in an effort to make Britain’s economy less dependent on services.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the figures “disappointing,” adding that “these are extremely difficult economic times.” He blamed the drop in G.D.P. on an “overhang of debt,” higher fuel prices and “Europe’s economies.”

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, said Mr. Cameron should stop blaming the euro zone’s economic crisis for Britain’s difficulties and start to admit that the government’s austerity measures cripple growth. “People are fed up with his excuses,” Mr. Miliband said.

The chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, acknowledged that Britain had “substantial economic problems,” but that “dealing with those problems is made more difficult by the situation in the euro zone.” The government said it would stick to its plan to cut the budget deficit, which would eliminate about 700,000 public sector jobs, asserting that the plan helped to provide Britain with lower borrowing costs than countries such as Italy or Spain.

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its growth forecast for Britain for this year to 0.6 percent from 1.6 percent and predicted a mild recession in the 17 E.U. countries that share the euro as a single currency. Britain is a member of the European Union but not of the euro zone.

“The heightened uncertainty has damaged confidence, causing businesses and consumers to put their spending decisions on hold, paralyzing the U.K. economy,” Andrew Goodwin, senior economic adviser to Ernst Young’s economic analysis group, said. “There is a danger that this situation will persist, in the absence of a credible and sustainable solution to the euro zone’s woes.”

Britain’s dismal economic data Wednesday means the Bank of England is now more likely to expand its bond purchasing program, or so-called quantitative easing, when its interest rate setting committee meets next month. The benchmark interest rate is at a record low of 0.5 percent and the central bank is close to completing its £275 billion, or $428 billion, bond buying program meant to alleviate pressures in the credit markets.

“There is scope for interest rates to remain low, and, if necessary, for further asset purchases, to prevent inflation falling below the 2 percent target,” Mervyn A. King, the governor of the Bank of England, said in a speech Tuesday evening.

“As we head into a challenging year for the world economy, we have seen more positive sentiment in financial markets, and, at home, a fall in inflation,” Mr. King said. “But none of this implies that 2012 will be an easy year.”

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