April 18, 2021

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Apple, Gold and Cupcakes


A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

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

Must Reads

The argument for austerity takes a big hit, and the two economists at the center of the debate respond. Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank and a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his “efforts to combat global poverty,” discusses lending without collateral and how business ideas are generated.

Boston: Reddit on the Case

Michael Sivy explains what the Boston bombing means for the economy and the stock market. There are many stories of businesses stepping up to help. The calamity reveals the value of social media, and an entrepreneur beats the conspiracy-theory “kooks” at their own game. Reddit readers did not solve the bombing, but entrepreneurs did introduce EvidenceUpload.org to aid the investigation. Boston restaurants rallied to the cause.

The Economy: Apple, Gold and Cupcakes

Apple’s stock price falls. The price of gold crashes. And so does the market for expensive cupcakes. Rising costs put the squeeze on builder confidence in April. A Kauffman Foundation report finds that entrepreneurial activity declined in 2012 and that millennials are the least entrepreneurial generation. Port traffic in the Los Angeles area decreased. But conditions in the New York metropolitan (pdf) region improved, and housing starts and industrial production moved up. Crucial measures showed low inflation in March and the Federal Reserve reported moderate growth across the country. Paul Ryan says the G.O.P. has no plans to create a budget-deal panel with Senate Democrats. Twelve million Americans say they believe lizard people run the country.

Start-Up: The Strangest Start-Up

CorruptTour may be the strangest start-up in travel. Steve Blank says the lean start-up “changes everything” and teams up with Google to create a five-week course for entrepreneurs. A tiny news start-up wins a Pulitzer. John Stanfield says every start-up should be familiar with this tax term: 83b election. A teenager auctions off 10 percent of her future earnings to start a Web site. A peer-to-peer airport car rental start-up raises $5.5 million.

Ideas: Let It Rot

A gas station in Germany offers haircuts while filling the tank. Peter Thiel’s latest investments include better search and cellular nanotechnology. Here are 10 ideas in retailing from the last 12 months. Investments in clean energy hit a four-year low. Google’s first BufferBox appears in San Francisco. Will Knight says autonomous vehicles will remain a fantasy for years, and Icelanders make poisonous shark meat edible by letting it rot for six months.

Management: Looking Sharp

These YouTube videos will teach you how to look sharp. Les McKeown says there are three things all great leaders know about themselves. If you want to know how to rocket to the top of an industry, you may want to consider the “Macklemore Effect.” A new research report reveals the latest trends in corporate social responsibility. Cameron Herold shares the key to leading highly productive meetings, and Karol K. discusses the art of complaining about your business. Andrea Johnson explains how reversing the funnel increased sales by 14 percent for a sales-incentive company, and Alina Dizik says you should ask 10 questions before determining your target market.

People: Rude and Unprofessional

Erika Andersen explains how some companies lose their best employees at “hello.” McDonald’s tries to change its image of “rude, unprofessional employees.” A retail chain of arts-and-crafts stores in Oklahoma raises its full-time employees’ minimum wage to $14 per hour. The chairman of US Airways sends a message to employees to explain why he earned $5.5 million in 2012. Here are 20 ways to manage a dysfunctional team. Allison Rice wonders if telecommuting will become a “flash in the pan,” and Samuel Bacharach offers four reasons employees resist change. Here’s what to do about the bully in your workplace.

Around the Country: Colorado’s Entrepreneurs

Coming to New York: TechCrunch’s popular Disrupt conference and a $125,000 Business Innovation challenge. You can be one of three women to win a $3,000 grant for your work. A business-to-business networking expo is scheduled for Tucson this week, and the Downtown Sacramento Partnership is running a contest that will give the winner free rent for a year. Even though Philadelphia area economic activity is steady, the city’s mayor discusses selling assets to stave off bankruptcy. Philadelphia holds its annual Tech Week. Sales of small businesses are up in Tulsa, Okla., and a business tax cut is proposed in Texas. A campaign in Colorado spotlights entrepreneurs powering the state’s economy. These are the wealthiest subway stops in New York City.

Around the World: Disappointing Growth

Ford expects 40 percent of its sales will occur in China by the end of the decade. Ansuya Harjani says China’s disappointing economic growth (7.7 percent in the first quarter!) is “leading to a loss of confidence.” Meanwhile, it is revealed that almost 2 percent of world trade comes from counterfeit Chinese goods. Elliott Auckland says storm clouds are gathering in Moscow. This is the global gross domestic product outlook in one huge map. São Paulo is named the most attractive Latin American city for investment. Britain’s jobless rate rises.

Red Tape: A Huge Train Wreck

Mark J. Kohler explains how incorporation in Delaware or Nevada can hurt you. This is what the “Gang of Eight” immigration proposal would mean for entrepreneurs. A Louisiana senator wins an award for her dedication to small businesses. Senator Max Baucus says he fears President Obama’s health care overhaul is headed for a “huge train wreck” — but Ezra Klein isn’t buying it.

Taxes: More Audits

The Internal Revenue Service plans more audits of small-business owners, and secret data shows clusters of likely tax cheats in California, Texas, Georgia and Maryland. The government imposes an annual reporting cost of more than $180 billion on the American people, but these five charts will make you feel better about paying your taxes. Some business groups are backpedaling on tax reform, and these are the best and worst state tax systems for entrepreneurship and small businesses.

Cash Flow: Shipping Costs

Juergen Kneifel suggests terms business owners should know. Here are five ways to reduce shipping costs. Maryalene LaPonsie says there are three steps for small-business forecasting, and here is how to become a QuickBooks power user. Bradley Derringer believes accounting software improves your carbon footprint.

Finance: Cocaine and the Crisis

Citigroup’s profit rises 30 percent and Goldman Sachs earns $2.2 billion in the first quarter, but Bank of America’s revenue drops. Britain’s former drug czar says cocaine use by bankers caused the world financial crisis. The American Bankers Association offers tips to help small-business owners enhance their current banking relationships. A new survey shows bank risk managers are optimistic about small-business lending. Ashton Kutcher makes another investment.

Online: Design of the Year

A webinar on Tuesday will cover best practices for landing pages. Chuck Hemann suggests five steps to build a digital analytics function. Eric Schmidt thinks the Facebook Home Android modification is “fantastic.” Becky McCray names an almost-useful QR code. A simple government Web site earns the title of best design of the year.

Social Media: What’s a Facebook Fan Worth?

A study concludes that Facebook fans are worth $174.17 apiece. Jeff Bullas says social media is better “than your granny.” One study shows small businesses are finding return on investment in social media (but struggling with Facebook), while another study concludes that social media is a bust for small businesses. Here are a few ways to measure social media marketing, and if you have just four minutes you can learn how to extend the reach of your e-mail. Twitter allows advertisers to target specific words used in tweets, and Paula Eder says retweeting adds traffic and saves time. Lucy Thornton suggests 41 marketing ideas for your Twitter account, including “post a photo of the view out of your window right now.” Elaine Lindsay explains how to use Google Plus Hangouts to generate content.

Technology: Is Your Cash Register Obsolete?

Microsoft is reportedly developing a smartwatch, is ready to compete head-on with Amazon’s Web Services and makes more money off mobile handset sales than Google. But American teenagers still want an iPhone for their next smartphone. Gina Chon says to blame your mobile-phone company and the government for dropped calls. A report from Symantec finds small businesses are being battered by cybercrime. Chris Murphy says an app is not a mobile strategy. Google’s applications suffer a partial failure, a technical problem in Pennsylvania gives taxpayers a day’s reprieve and over 700 American Airlines flights are canceled after a computer system fails. Brian Patrick Eha wonders if Nebula One is reinventing cloud computing for businesses. Carla Turchetti asks whether your cash register is obsolete.

Tweet of the Week

@tompapa – This is a good week to stay under the covers.

The Week’s Bests

Joe Weisenthal says everyone should be thrilled by the gold crash: “The huge corpus of economic research, which has informed the U.S.’s efforts to stimulate the economy, is not a pile of garbage. You can do a lot without blowing things up, as the gold bugs claimed would happen. And more broadly, this represents a breaking of the fever, and perhaps a return to thinking that humans aren’t such a horrible disappointment.”

Leslie Young explains what a good boss should be doing: “A good boss will not be smug and complacent with their performance. There is always room to grow and even bosses have something they can always do better. Being a leader entails a lot of responsibility and a good boss knows that they are accountable to the customers and the employees should something go wrong. Bad bosses are overconfident and think that they know everything there is to know. Good bosses think otherwise.”

This Week’s Question: Do you consider yourself a good boss?

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.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/22/this-week-in-small-business-apple-gold-and-cupcakes/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Tool Kit: How to Sever Ties to Social Networks and Other Web Sites

First you’re smitten by a social network or Web service and can’t stop spending time on it. Then it starts asking how you’re feeling, what you like, where you are, with whom, and why you don’t share as much anymore.

Pretty soon, you’re ready to call it quits.

But trying to end your relationship with some prominent online services can be like breaking up with an overly attached romantic partner — they make it pretty hard to say goodbye.

And with good reason — more users are beneficial to a company’s bottom line, which often depends on generating revenue by selling you targeted advertisements. Possibly no social network understands this better than Facebook, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, proudly announced last October that his site had surpassed one billion active users.

“Their business model is about getting users to create content,” said Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group. “It’s users who are creating content, liking things, and, ultimately, a brand sees this and comes to deploy advertising dollars. The product is us.”

Still, not every site takes the “Never Gonna Give You Up” approach. Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of the social news site Reddit, said that if users wanted to delete an account, “they should be able to do that as easily as they signed up.”

“It puts the onus on us to keep delivering a great product, and not retaining users simply because they can’t find the exit,” he said.

And remember, even if you say goodbye, like Rick and Ilsa in “Casablanca,” you’ll always have Paris.

FACEBOOK Given Facebook’s history of privacy controversies — and its general tendency to occupy vast amounts of time — some people may eventually feel the need to leave, or at least take a break from the service.

To quit entirely, log on to your account and go to https://www.facebook.com/help/delete_account. After hitting the Delete My Account box, you’ll be asked to enter your password.

If you want to download a copy of your photos, posts and messages before leaving the service, you can do that from the account settings page, which can be quickly reached by clicking on that little round gear icon at the top right of the Facebook home page.

Unlike many sites, Facebook gives you 14 days to change your mind before your account is permanently deleted. The company knows it has hooked hundreds of millions of users, many of whom won’t be able to stay away and will come crawling back.

The site will also let you take a temporary break from the relationship by letting you deactivate your account. Unlike deleting, deactivating it will merely disable your profile, although some features, including sent messages, may remain visible to others. You can return at any time, with your information intact.

But Facebook makes it harder to put the relationship on hiatus than to leave permanently. Before you can deactivate your account, Facebook asks you to provide a reason for quitting. Choices range from “I spend too much time using Facebook” to “I don’t understand how to use Facebook.” For nearly all selections, the company pleads with you to stay. Don’t find Facebook useful? It responds by advising you to connect with more friends.

According to a Facebook spokeswoman, this is less about being clingy, and more about being consumer-driven by giving users “the power to decide what action is right for them.”

After selecting your reason for leaving, hit Confirm. You’ll have to re-enter your password, then hit the Deactivate Now box.

Not surprisingly, Facebook ends things by saying, “We hope you come back soon.” Which, let’s face it, you probably will.

GOOGLE PLUS Google tries to entangle you in multiple, distinct services like Google Plus, Gmail and YouTube — all connected. And it can track your activity across all of them and show you ads.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/technology/personaltech/how-to-sever-ties-to-social-networks-and-other-web-sites.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bits Blog: Is New York’s Tech Boom Sustainable?

The battle royale brewing between New York and Silicon Valley to be the nation’s dominant epicenter for tech innovation and hot start-ups wages on.

On Monday night in downtown Manhattan, Paul Graham stood before a jam-packed auditorium of 800 entrepreneurs, developers, programmers and others who were curious about what makes a city a fertile environment for a thriving community of start-ups. Mr. Graham is a well-known investor and esteemed figure in Silicon Valley because he created Y-Combinator, an incubator in Menlo Park, Calif., that has given seed money and mentorship to start-ups,

At the Y-Combinator event, Mr. Graham raised the question of the sustainability of New York’s future as a hotbed of technology innovation and whether the city could ever grow to rival Silicon Valley.

“The truth is that I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Hubs tend to stay hubs.”

Mr. Graham gave the keynote talk of the evening, but also welcomed several Y-Combinator alumni to the stage, including Sam Altman of Loopt, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit and Joe Gebbia of Airbnb. Mr. Graham kidded that his keynote talk could have been titled “On the Other Hand,” because for each theory he had about why New York, a decade after the dot-com bust, is springing back to life and might give rise to the next Facebook or Google, he had a counterpoint to rival it.

He said that geographically speaking, there are several elements that contribute to a healthy ecosystem to nurture young start-ups. After all, he acknowledged, most start-ups don’t make it past their infancy.

“But places aren’t sprayed with start-upicide,” he said. “A start-up needs keys to success.”

He noted that New York, like Silicon Valley, had the same density of tech-savvy types working in similar industries that is required for the kinds of happenstance encounters and introductions that could revive a company’s flailing fortunes and help right its trajectory.

He recalled the serendipitous sidewalk meeting of Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, who helped shape Facebook in its early days and became its founding president.

“The antidote for a failing start-up is Sean Parker,” he said.

However, Mr. Graham also said that New Yorkers tended to prize making money above all other goals — which could prove to be advantageous or disastrous for a fledging company or business idea.

“The Valley is a magnet for nerdy visionaries,” he said. “New York is for rapacious dealmakers.”

Mr. Graham went on to list a few other factors that detract from New York’s viability, including the distractions of city life and other, more lucrative industries, like Wall Street, along with the Valley’s perennially sunny climate.

But he did note that New York had surpassed Boston, long considered a nexus of technology and start-up culture.

“New York is solidly No. 2 right now,” he said.

New York, Mr. Graham said, was ripe for the kinds of companies that can disrupt and transform some of the city’s legacy businesses, like fashion, advertising and finance. Whether or not they can give rise to a large-scale technology company along the lines of Google and Facebook, he said, remains to be seen for now.

However, even Mr. Graham isn’t immune to the siren call of the hot start-ups cropping up around the boroughs of New York. Although he said he had no plans to bring a version of his incubator to the East Coast, like Ron Conway, a lauded angel investor, and Accel Partners, a well-known investment firm, who each have turned a keener eye to New York in recent months, Mr. Graham did say that he hoped to lure more New Yorkers to the annual Y-Combinator start-up class.

But for those entrepreneurs who are accepted into Y-Combinator and, after finishing their three-month incubation period, want to move back to New York? He wishes them the best of luck on their journey.

“I don’t try to stop them,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=07a28879481c7c566d6822cc20a3df3a