March 29, 2023

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: An Elevator on the Moon


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

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

The Big Story: Republicans Go Small Business

The Republicans officially nominate Mitt Romney and unveil a debt clock in Tampa. Small businesses are a common theme at the convention and a few get starring roles, but Kelly Spohrs wonders whether they are really being heard. An MSNBC panel discusses which candidate is best for small business. Susan Solovic warns that partisan politics and small business don’t mix. A new quiz helps you determine how partisan you are. Some companies are cashing in on the political revelry.

Economy: Dreams of Retirement

Ben S. Bernanke gives a speech that has some people excited (but not Paul Krugman). Retailers posted strong gains for August. As housing prices continue to rise, Bill McBride analyzes the market. Farmers are eyeing record profits and even this 8-year-old’s stock portfolio is doing well. The Kansas City region reports (pdf) moderate growth, and tech jobs in San Francisco near their dot-com peak. The Fed’s Beige Book says the economy is growing slowly and gross domestic product is revised up. Over all, the economy posted moderate gains this summer, and John Jantsch feels there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. But wait, a new survey finds small businesses are experiencing sluggish growth, and the economy is hurting their owners’ retirement dreams. Households are worse off than they were three years ago. Consumer confidence is at a nine-month low. The four-week moving average of weekly jobless claims moved up, and manufacturing growth in Texas slowed. Vehicle miles driven, when adjusted for total population, set a “new post-crisis trough.” Mike Shedlock is concerned about government spending as a percentage of G.D.P. Jon Stewart welcomes the kids back to school.

Your People: Absolutely Loaded

Padmasree Warrior explains what employees really need at work: “There’s no one-size-fits-all for corporate technology and companies that take a hard line risk losing the hearts and, crucially, the minds of their employees.” Paul Guttry suggests a few employee-suggestion programs. Here’s what it feels like to be “absolutely loaded” by age 25. Donna Maria explains what to look for in a business coach. Pamela Slim says three things will kill your training program or event. Workplace stress doubles the risk of diabetes for women. A boy finds a piece of whale vomit worth $63,000. Novak Djokovic has fun with a fan.

Technology: B.Y.O.D. and XBRL

I.B.M. buys a social human resources firm. Edward Baig discovers that certain apps lighten the workload for small businesses. Evernote introduces an app tailored to small businesses. Google rolls out several new Google Plus features for businesses. Campaigner announces a new customer relationship management product. FreshBooks introduces an iPhone app to do billing on the go. Apple wants to pay you for your old iPhone but its victory over Samsung could mean fewer smartphone options. Here’s what to look for in a laptop bag. Bioengineered bacteria could produce fuel from CO2. Curiosity beams back high-resolution zooms of Mars. Here are some thoughts on managing in the bring-your-own-device era. And did you know that XBRL can lower your cost of capital? Most Americans are confused by cloud computing. Jay Heyman warns you not to fall behind in technology: “It is the idea, not the technique, that makes the difference. Keep current, but concentrate on what you do with the technology, not what the technology does.”

Management: Data Talk

Kelly Meeker lists the most creative start-ups in education technology. Kevin Ready learns a few things from one of Silicon Valley’s best known entrepreneurial educators, and here are seven pearls of start-up wisdom. This is how to make money from YouTube. Lara Lee and Daniel Sobol believe that data can’t tell you everything you need to know about your customers. Matthew Needham shares advice for getting stuff done. Diana Pohly says that consistency should be one of your top customer service goals. Jon Swanson suggests making it easy for your customers to complain.

Sales and Marketing: Another Old Spice Ad

Kelley Robertson explains how NOT to work a room. Jill Konrath offers some cold-call motivation tips that will keep sales productivity high. Lisa Hephner explains how to get press coverage for your small business. Ryan Eggenberger says that hiring an intern is one of three ways you can market your side business while you sleep: “You can find interns by asking on Facebook, e-mailing somebody with kids in high school or college, or just go to the local community college’s intern department.” Some brands are seizing on Prince Harry’s troubles. These four strategies will help you wage a successful text message marketing campaign. Kevin Webster shares 15 pages that use compelling images to capture leads. Here’s another awesome Old Spice ad.

Social Media: Facebook Will Die

These 29 companies tell you how to rock social media. A new company says it can track your social activity against Web traffic and revenue. Anjali Mullany warns that asking someone to follow you on Twitter guarantees he won’t. Rocco Pendola explains why Twitter will live and Facebook will die. Lisa Loeffler reports on how Fairmont hotels used a Facebook contest to segment audiences. Duncan Spencer predicts that mobile wallets will change mobile marketing by opening up “communicative interaction between the brand and the customer at the point of sale.” Location-based services are also expected to become big businesses. John Twohig believes that trust influences what motivates people in online communities to participate.

Around the Country: A Robotic Convenience Store

The Small Business Administration introduces a video portal for small-business success stories. Here’s one reason to move your business to Michigan. Greyhound deploys a robotic convenience store in an Oklahoma City bus terminal. Penn State students are no longer allowed to sing “Sweet Caroline.” The Council of Smaller Enterprises announces the lineup of keynote speakers scheduled to appear at its convention. A free webinar on Wednesday will explain how to increase revenue through pay-for-call advertising programs and call analytics. In certain urban areas, local merchants are accepting package deliveries for busy consumers.

Around the World: Icelanders Are Happy

Japan cuts its economic assessment. China’s industrial profits fall. Depositors disappear from Spanish banks as bailout rumors grow. But bank lending rises in the euro zone. Here’s a slide show update on the unemployment situation in Europe. In India, a 100-year-old lunch-delivery service goes modern. Geoffrey James reports that Icelanders are more than twice as happy as Americans. Indonesia plans new franchise rules to promote local businesses. These are the top 10 power women in Russia. Isha Suri thinks Dublin may be the world’s new start-up hub. Two London entrepreneurs create a traveling bar where they can make specialty cocktails from a bicycle.

Around the Universe: The Ultimate Penthouse

A new company is trying to raise Kickstarter money to build an elevator on the moon.

Finance: The Depressing World of Collections

Microlenders are providing a lifeline to more online businesses and a new program introduced by the New Jersey Department of Labor in partnership with the nonprofit Intersect Fund will support small-business development in poor and distressed areas of the state. Here are a few financing tricks from Inc. 500 companies. And here are 13 more tips and tricks to get you paid faster. Patrick Sah writes about the depressing world of collections: “Beneath the surface of compliance and cooperation, the typical collection agency has a set of rules that are not written down anywhere, the most important of which is ‘don’t get caught.’”

Tweet of the Week

@DaveKerpen – In a social media world, corporate transparency is no longer a choice.

The Week’s Best

Adrian Swinscoe says that big data insight into customer behavior can be good but immersion and observation are better. He suggests spending more time being your own customer; serving your own customers; talking, listening and learning from the people that serve your customers; watching your customers in real time in your own business and watching your customers in real time in other businesses: “You’ll get real and practical insights much faster than you will get using any other method.”

This Week’s Question: Do you have a B.Y.O.D. policy?

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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