July 21, 2017

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week In Small Business: The Employer Mandate

Dashboard

A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

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

Must-Reads

Clate Mask shares some ugly truths about owning a small business, and Nouriel Roubini says that a new period of uncertainty and volatility has begun.

The Economy: Seven Charts

Manufacturing activity increased, but the service sector slowed. Construction spending rose in May. Small-business borrowing rose, and SurePayroll’s Small Business Scorecard reports increased optimism. Nissan expands production in the United States, and the Restaurant Performance Index hits a 14-month high. The Agriculture Department expects food prices to climb. Apparently sequestration wasn’t as bad as feared, and these seven charts show where the economy is headed.

Jobs: Hiring Up

The economy added more jobs than expected in June, and ADP reports that small-business hiring beat forecasts, too. Another survey found that nearly a third of manufacturers and distributors plan to increase the size of their work force in 2013, and 10 of 36 states saw employment growth in June. But the National Federation of Independent Business said that small-business employment edged down for a second straight month. Minneapolis has the lowest unemployment rate for a major city.

Health Care: Mandate Delayed

The health care law employer mandate has been delayed until 2015, and Ed Rogers believes that the decision could hurt small businesses. Ezra Klein says the employee mandate should not be delayed — “it should be repealed.” The Wall Street Journal apologizes for not being “critical enough” about the Affordable Care Act. Connecticut struggles to get ready to introduce coverage. More than 40 percent of uninsured Americans aren’t aware that they could be required to buy coverage next year, according to a Gallup survey.

Online Payments: Bitcoin Mania

Many small businesses are embracing Bitcoin, and some wonder if it will drive more sales (and for those still wondering what it is, here’s a definition). A Google-backed distributed currency exchange is trying to make it easier for people to pay others with the alternative currency. Michel Bauwens explains how the “Bitcoin 1 percent” manipulate the currency, deceive its user community, and make its future uncertain. Kate Craig-Wood explains how she made a fortune with bitcoin. This ATM will turn bank notes into bitcoins, and the Winklevoss Twins want to sell you a bitcoin fund. Here are eight ways investing in bitcoins could go terribly wrong, and a seminar that will explore the currency’s future.

Employees: Amy’s Baking

Amy’s Baking Company makes news again by requiring employees to sign a contract. Amanda MacArthur explains how restaurant tipping is evolving. A Staples survey finds workers want naps, better technology, and the ability to work from home. Former MSNBC and “Saturday Night Live” interns target NBCUniversal in a lawsuit, while thousands of other emboldened and disgruntled former interns are potentially eligible to sue media companies. A teacher has worn the same outfit in his yearbook photo for 40 years. A grumpy cat becomes a “cat-alyst” for social good.

Entrepreneurs: The Walking Dead

An entrepreneur explains how he went from a village boy to chief executive of India’s largest bus-ticketing service. Kim Kaupe says there are four ways entrepreneurs can avoid becoming the walking dead. This is how tech entrepreneurs in three different countries get on their bikes. A new live radio show will let Americans vote on contestants’ ideas for business ventures. A Detroit entrepreneur transforms personal tragedy into lifesaving inventions. A 10-week training program from the Kauffman Foundation that promises to build skills in entrepreneurship is accepting applications from military veterans.

Cash Flow: This American Business

Jules Olbermann tells the story of how separate accounts helped keep her and her husband together. PayPal Galactic can help you pay for that Mars vacation you always wanted. Ira Glass explains why “This American Life” is thriving as a business. An online marketplace and a crowdfunding platform team up. Chris Peden shares a small-business owner’s guide to applying for a mortgage.

Start-Up: 30 Days To Live

Jacob Goldstein says that his start-up has only 30 days to live, and Andrew Montalenti explains why start-ups fail. Ariel Diaz thinks start-up schools are incredible places to recruit outside of Silicon Valley. This five-time entrepreneur shares five crucial ways to know when you should start up, and here’s how to try out your business idea before you dive in. New York barely breaks the top 20 in start-up investment per capita (and a prank brings out the best and worst in its citizens).

Around The Country: Boating is Back

Jon Xavier explains how the Defense of Marriage Act ruling complicates business, but California’s wedding industry loves the Prop 8 ruling and studies show that the L.G.B.T. market is affluent and influential. The boating industry makes a comeback. In a new contest, Wal-Mart offers entrepreneurs a chance to compete for shelf space. These are the top 10 states for new manufacturing jobs. Oregon gets closer to a plan to provide free college education.

Around the World: Your Flight Number

In Colombia, Coke tests a bottle made of ice. Israel’s start-up culture is luring more M.B.A.’s. A film banned as pornography in China was accidentally shown on a large screen in a public square. And in case you were wondering, here’s what your flight number means.

Management: Relocating

Laurie McCabe explains eight ways to grow your small business, while a family business owner learns a few hard lessons about succession. Larry Kudlow interviews successful manufacturers about how they can afford to make things in America, and Jim Smith lists six important small-business tasks for the second half of 2013. Joe Taylor Jr. says there are five ways that relocating a small business can cut costs. A few tech giants offer advice to small-business owners, and here are five business lessons from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”

Marketing: Why It Isn’t Working

Craig Newmark reminds us of the glorious future of shopping. Jim Connolly explains why your marketing isn’t working, and Andrew Gothelf suggests three ways to motivate your sales team (and they are not about money). Jay Baer shares three modern marketing mistakes. Barbara Austin wonders if you really need to do in-person marketing. These are 15 e-mail subject line formulas that work, and here are three Web site add-ons that are worth buying.

Social Media: Must-Use Sites and Apps

Jeff Bullas looks into the facts, figures and statistics of social media. Here is how social media is driving huge online video growth. This infographic explains the five essential elements of viral content, and here are seven “must-use” sites and apps to boost social media. Megan Conley explains how to increase your Google+ engagement, and Lynn White shares advice on how to use Facebook to promote events. The federal government spent $630,000 to “buy” Facebook fans when it could have used these techniques.

Red Tape: Regulatory Issues

Paychex identifies the top five regulatory issues of the summer, and Rick Harrison slams anti-business regulations. Many small-business owners back taking action on climate change. The General Services Administration continues to exceed its small-business goals, and the Small Business Administration and Native American Contractors Association agree to a strategic alliance. Hundreds of new laws went live on July 1.

Mobile: The 99 Percent

Here are seven mobile marketing stats that will amaze you, and this is how to avoid mobile-app overload. Felix Salmon explains why mobile payments will never take off. A major app vulnerability could affect 99 percent of Android devices.

Technology: Mind-Blowing Products

A couple of ZDNet editors delve into the challenges and opportunities that small businesses face in making decisions about technology. This new printing method works on any surface. Gartner predicts that tech spending will reach $3.7 trillion in 2013. Yahoo kills a dozen more products to sharpen its focus, while Google continues to work on these “mind-blowing products.” Here are 10 traditional industries that have been transformed by tablets, and these are the worst cloud outages of 2013 (so far).

Tweet Of The Week

@CherylHeppard: If your own market is small right now, pair up with another, stronger marketer and release your product together.

The Week’s Best Quote

Ryan Derousseau says you can change your luck: “There are tons of ways to fix the problem you’re having, especially if it’s not life-and-death. All you need to do first is change your perspective of the problem. Once that’s accomplished, then that first small step can take place.”

This Week’s Question: Have you tried accepting bitcoins for payment? Can you explain what a bitcoin is?

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/2013/07/08/this-week-in-small-business-the-employer-mandate/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Tech Support: An Old-Fashioned Business Copes With Modern Tech Issues

Tech Support

What small-business owners need to know about technology.

Shawn Reed, founder of form-function-form.Ian Jones Shawn Reed, founder of form-function-form.

This is one in an occasional series of posts that look at how small-business owners manage their technology needs.

The Business: form·function·form in Orlando, Fla., is a year-old leather-working business owned by Shawn Reed, 35, who makes products such as wallets and watchbands in a home studio. Forty percent of his sales last year came between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which coincided with the introduction of his “Button-Stud Weekender” watch (he designed the band). Mentions in Esquire, Dappered, Free/Man, AH Magazine and A Headlong Dive, as well as consistent business with Huckberry, has kept sales brisk enough, he said, for him to “scale responsibly and maintain quality.”

The Owner: In his previous life, Mr. Reed worked as a landscape architect. After 10 years, he left to get a master’s degree in economics at George Mason University and finished in early 2010, a time when the recession was lingering and his interest in landscape architecture was waning. A few years earlier, he had started working with leather, even tracking down a specific leather he wanted to make a bracelet from a tannery in Chicago. He enjoyed the process so much he taught himself to make other items.

Old School Tools: Mr. Reed begins by creating pencil sketches in a moleskin notebook. His studio is equipped with two large rectangular tables and a variety of hand tools for making holes, a beveler for rounding corners, X-Acto knives for cutting pattern pieces on leather and a burnisher — a small, hardwood wheel attached to a Dremel rotary tool that smooths the leather’s edges. The studio also has three hand presses. One, a larger hydraulic press, is a standard shop press that a local welder modified for Mr. Reed, who uses it to carve patterns into leather. “It’s like a heavy-duty cookie cutter,” he said. Two smaller hand presses made by YKK Snap Fasteners America set rivets and snaps. Everything is hand-stitched using large needles. There’s also an electric branding iron Mr. Reed uses to burn his logo into the leather.

New School Tools: After Mr. Reed sketches, he draws his idea on his Apple Mac Pro desktop using AutoCAD, an architectural drafting program he used in his previous career. AutoCAD lets him draw very precisely — to 124th of an inch — and then he prints the drawing full size and uses it as a pattern. When he gets exactly what he wants, he sends the drawing and corresponding measurements to a company in Texas that creates a heavy-duty cutter, called a die, for his press.

For his e-commerce site, Mr. Reed uses WooCommerce, a WordPress e-commerce platform, along with MaxCDN, a content-delivery network that speeds up his Web site by serving it from the closest location to a customer. “I got my load time down from 35 seconds to two,” Mr. Reed said. He pays $10 a month to use Outright for bookkeeping, he uses a free version of FreshBooks for invoicing, he uses Google Voice as his free phone service, and he pays $25 a month for ShipStation, which provides shipping labels and tracking information. Some of his corporate customers still use a fax, so he employs a Wacom tablet — another holdover from his life as a landscape architect — to “write” onto PDF forms sent to him and then he faxes those back using FaxZero’s free service.

Pain Points: Cutting out patterns on leather would be a lot faster with a laser cutter, Mr. Reed said, but it could cost as much as $20,000. He also wanted to sketch directly on his iPad, rather than in his notebook, but he couldn’t find a pen that would work well on the screen. Another sticking point has been Web hosting. Mr. Reed said that in hindsight he wonders if it was the best decision to use a hosting service, DreamHost, that requires a lot of management on his part. “I’m not at the point yet where hiring an I.T. consultant is worth it,” he said, even though keeping his site up and running is crucial. “I wonder if one of the managed shopping cart/Web server services like Shopify would have been a better fit for me at this point. I have paid less on paper, but the amount of time I’ve spent keeping the site up and working correctly has probably eaten into — if not completely offset — what I’ve saved.”

Thinking Ahead: Mr. Reed continually wrestles with his opportunity costs. It’s been difficult for him to figure out which tasks he should contract out. Just because he is capable of figuring out how to do all of the things that go into running a business, Mr. Reed said, doesn’t necessarily mean he should do them. “I need to budget wisely to maximize my productivity and, subsequently, profits,” he said.

What do you think? Should Mr. Reed automate — or delegate — more of his operational tasks? Should he change his e-commerce platform?

You can follow Eilene Zimmerman on Twitter.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/an-old-fashioned-business-copes-with-modern-tech-issues/?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Cronuts!

Dashboard

A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

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

Must-Reads

Jim Tankersley wonders if the era of uncertainty is over and whether a growth boom will begin. Drex Davis asserts that the Marketplace Fairness Act will bankrupt small businesses. And here is everything you need to know about cronuts.

The Economy: Bigger and More Profitable

Construction spending (pdf) increased in April, the service sector picked up slightly and the trade deficit is $6.3 billion (pdf) smaller than a year ago. Auto sales roared back in May, and Ford truck sales hit their highest levels since 2007. The financial sector is bigger and more profitable than ever. But factory orders rose less than expected, manufacturing declined and Vahan Janjigian believes that manufacturing is on life support. A research paper asks if the information technology revolution is over. A  poll finds that more than half of America thinks we’re still in a recession and only 36 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with the economy.

Jobs: Solid

The jobs report was “solid” but unemployment ticked up and wages are not rising. Private employers added 135,000 jobs in May, and small businesses picked up the hiring pace. Gallup says job creation is the best it has been in five years.

Ideas: Drone Deliveries

Here are 2013’s 100 most creative business people. Amazon starts delivering groceries, and Matt Yglesias explains why. Burger King gets into the delivery game and, not to be outdone, Domino’s uses a drone to deliver pizza. The Dollar Shave Club introduces a very special product for the guy who has everything — and a jilted girlfriend leaves a brilliant note for her guy.

People: Taco Bell Responds

Smoking employees cost employers $6,000 a year, a study finds. A Taco Bell employee appears to lick a bunch of shells, and here’s how the restaurant chain responded. John Patrick Pullen says transparency is essential to a trusting staff. A Cornell professor discusses whether tipping should be banned. These internship stories paint a tough picture for young professionals. Here are Jim’s greatest office pranks. One in 10 young job hunters is rejected because of social media. A peer-to-peer bonus system is made easy for employers. A job site is recruiting only beautiful candidates. A mind-body therapist explains her methods for reducing stress for Google’s employees. Apple employees based in Cupertino, Calif., earned $2 billion in 2012 and the company is poised for another hiring spree.

Cash Flow: Excess Cash

An online resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses releases a guide to help owners get an overview of the different types of Small Business Administration loans. Ked Harley suggests four steps to take before applying for a small-business loan, and Pam Baker summarizes all of the ways you can be paid. Michael Shedlock says the Federal Reserve’s policies and President Obama’s programs are exacerbating the credit squeeze for small businesses. Ian Kerrigan wants owners to think about diversifying their investments, and here are a few places to consider investing excess cash.

Red Tape: Insurance Premiums

The president wants to prosecute patent trolls. The Internal Revenue Service continues to take heat. Here are six ways that the new health care law changes insurance premiums, and a dental start-up sees profit in the law’s gaps.

Women: A New Index

The United States tops Dell’s new index on female entrepreneurship, but unfortunately the opportunities are not as good in India. This is what you should know about women in agriculture. Richard White suggests 10 tips for female entrepreneurs to stay on track.

Management: Three Companies in Five Weeks

A book offers help for easing any manager’s people problems. Jay H. Heyman explains how much a $10 bottle of wine really costs. A Cigna study finds America’s sole proprietors are independent and confident — and often uninsured. And if a tornado destroys your business, here’s what to do. Salvatore Babones says that when it comes to business profits, “it’s the ‘plutonomy’ versus the ‘realonomy’ — and the plutonomy is winning.” R. Kay Green shares six lessons in entrepreneurship. Kevin Owyang thinks you might be a social entrepreneur without knowing it. One entrepreneur sells three companies in five weeks.

Marketing: Getting Leads

John Jantsch suggests giving stuff away to generate referrals. Harry and Sally Vaishnav explain why better packaging improves sales. Ciara Pressler evaluates whether you should hire a publicist or do it yourself. Sara Davidson explores where marketers get leads.

Around the Country: Best Cities

Rieva Lesonsky explains why you should get ready for National Small Business Week. Constant Contact will celebrate the week with Get Down to Business events across the country. A report says that Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle are the cities most friendly to employees of small companies. Two Philadelphia women are selling fashion from a truck. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explain why doubling a city’s population increases its economic productivity by 130 percent. Other countries are seeking entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. A New York factory of the future fabricates customer-ordered designs with top-of-the-line, industrial 3-D printing machines.

Around the World: Learning From Dabbawalas

A Spanish city is using a network of sensors to improve services and save money. David Rohde explains how privately financed economic initiatives are quietly spreading peace in the Middle East. A recalculation of gross domestic product may help app designers in Nigeria. The International Monetary Fund halves Germany’s growth forecast, and Australia’s economy expanded at the slowest annual pace in almost two years. Unemployment in France rose to 10.8 percent. Brandon Smith reports that Canada could be an entrepreneur’s utopia, and this is what start-ups in India can learn from dabbawalas. A teenage “wakeboarder” takes on a flood.

Start-Up: Big Data

Bill Gates is helping lead a $35 million investment in a networking Web site for scientists. Intel creates a $100 million fund for more “human-like” devices, and Bloomberg L.P. introduces a fund to invest in start-ups. A new company aims to beat Verizon and ATT with free mobile phone service. A 17-year-old entrepreneur learns about starting a business from Jack Dorsey. Here is how to avoid bad advice that can kill a start-up. Dealstruck takes on banks with a “Lending Club for small businesses.” Here are 14 big data start-ups you’re going to hear more about, and Tim Devaney and Tom Stein explain what big data can do for a small business.

Social Media: A LinkedIn Strategy

Here is how to avoid a virus on Facebook that can drain your bank account. Jill Konrath suggests a LinkedIn strategy that can pay off, and this is how Motorola Solutions uses Facebook to generate more engagement. SocialBro raises $1.8 million to help businesses manage, analyze and monetize their Twitter communities, and here are six factors that make a picture popular on Pinterest. The grumpy cat gets a movie deal.

Online: The Best Unsubscribe Message

Andy Crestodina compares your blog to a beer: “an enticing head is just the beginning.” Hubspot creates the best unsubscribe message ever. A case study shows how two artists used online content to build their face-to-face business. Joy Gendusa shares four aspects of pay-per-click marketing that can help you solve the puzzle. Jayson DeMers explains how to build an online community around your business. Daniel Oyston has advice for improving content marketing, and here’s how to not break the law when using testimonials, endorsements and online reviews.

Mobile: A Competitive Edge

Google is closing the mobile app gap, and its Chrome browser starts to take off even as Android dips among mobile operating systems. The Onion reports that a new, improved Google Maps lets users launch missiles at any location on the globe. Foursquare is testing small-business promotions. This is how mobile marketing is changing the way companies appeal to customers. Francesca Louise Fenzi explains why Starbucks’ mobile payment success is good news. Here are seven oddball mobile apps.

Technology: Windows 8

The number of Amazon Web Services servers has exploded. Om Malik shares his thoughts on Salesforce’s decision to buy Exact Target for $2.5 billion. Windows 8 is failing to beat Windows 7 (and XP and even Vista). Insightly integrates its customer relationship management software with Microsoft Office 365 and Outlook 2013. Here are 10 excellent video-editing apps, and this is how to protect your small business from cybercriminals. A teenage inventor tests a homemade submarine. Here are nine great hotels for technology users.

Tweet of the Week:

@saundiela – If a company just can’t seem to make it, you need to look at the top! A good manager is a good checker a good owner checks his managers.

The Week’s Best Quotes:

André Mouton warns that the first quarter was business as usual for cloud companies — and that’s a bad thing : “Cloud companies are growing, and they’re losing money. If that’s all you know about them, it’s enough. Those two facts define the industry more than any hyperbole coming out of Silicon Valley. Much as their predecessors did 15 years ago, today’s tech companies are selling an exciting new technology; and like the dot-coms, they’ve embraced a business model that will self-destruct at the first sign of trouble.”

Derek Thompson explains why work-life balance is so bad: “Although the workweek has fallen, the changing composition of families has put tremendous time stresses on more mothers. Over all, research shows that lower-income men have never had more downtime, while working single mothers have never been more common. The first part is a problem. The second is a crisis.”

This Week’s Question: Where do you get your leads?

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/2013/06/10/this-week-in-small-business-cronuts/?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: Figuring Out How to Help Small-Business Owners

Staying Alive

The struggles of a business trying to survive.

I get a fair number of e-mails from my readers. A couple of weeks ago one arrived from a gentleman named Michael Bloch He wrote:

I am a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, studying Business Administration Political Science. Three months ago I founded an organization at Cal called Consult Your Community, which provides low-income, small business owners in college communities with pro bono consulting services. We believe that by helping these business owners improve the performance of their companies, we can create tangible, lasting benefits for both their businesses and our community at large.

Although we have enjoyed tremendous growth in the last few weeks (we have chapters opening at schools like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Notre Dame, UVA, UNC, UMich, and more) I feel that our members don’t fully understand the small business environment in which we operate. After reading your NYT’s article from this month, I wanted to reach out to see it would be possible to speak with you directly to learn from your wide range of unique experiences, so that our members could be better equipped to serve our clients.

Michael and I did speak on the phone, a conversation that started with my congratulating him for getting his organization off the ground. He also outlined what he wants his organization to do. Consult Your Community has very grand goals. It wants to address income inequality and help rebuild the American economy, while providing a way for large corporations to act in a socially responsible manner. And it plans to do all of this by deploying business students to provide free consulting to local businesses.

I agreed to help. Then we discussed the point he raised in his query, how to prepare his student volunteers for the messy reality of running a business. I know nothing about what business students learn in school, and it’s been a long time since I started my business, but I’m going to throw out an idea based on my own experience. Here’s what everyone needs to know about very small businesses: they have very few resources. Particularly when starting up, entrepreneurs have no money and no time.

Forget what you hear about venture capital financing and software start-ups — those are very unusual situations. (My son Peter has been working at a technology start-up in San Francisco, and it’s a different universe from anything I’ve experienced.) My sense from talking to Michael is that he’s more interested in working with business owners who are trying to start a corner store, or a copy shop, or a coffee shop. Most people start companies like this with their own money — and run through much of it just getting the doors open. The owner’s time is completely wrapped up in trying to get the business going — it takes a lot of time to establish basic operating procedures — and also doing the work. For this person to spend even 10 minutes with a student volunteer may be a lot to ask. No matter how well intended, a misguided approach won’t help anyone.

In more than two decades running a business, I have encountered all kinds of unsolicited input from outsiders. When considering these, I have learned to separate them into two categories: advice and actual help. These are very different. Advice is well meant, and often would be terrific if implemented, but is given without any commitment from the giver. It sounds like this: “You should do some difficult project with lofty goals!” I’ve always been a little grateful to get advice, as it does express some concern for my well-being. But I have rarely been able to act on it, as I have been overloaded with existing responsibilities.

Actual help has been much rarer but a lot better. It generally appears only after some effort on the part of the helper to understand what is really happening in the business, generally through time spent with the owner. Actual help sounds like this: “You are weak in some area of concern, and I’m going to take on a specific task for you.” In other words, the actual helper provides not only a thoughtful, customized analysis, but also the resources to put the plan into action.

In my own business, my greatest weakness was understanding my finances. The most useful actual help I received was having my partner’s wife set up my QuickBooks properly. She spent time with me, understanding my make-shift system, rolled up her sleeves, and got it done. This took several months of part-time work. Having my books set up in a conventional manner allowed me to hire a bookkeeper to maintain them. I was still a long way from real profit, but that one act set me on the road to sustained success.

Consult Your Community’s Web site lists four services that it intends to deliver: marketing, finance, environmental, and human resources. Michael and I did not discuss where this list came from, but let’s assume that it reflects course work that the students have done. Presumably, they have an academic understanding of these concepts, and now they have to apply them to real businesses. This, in my opinion, is where it might get tricky. Are those the primary problems that a small-business owner faces?

Based on my own experience, I would immediately remove environmental issues from the list — my clients simply do not care how green we are. And I would change marketing to selling, a related but different problem. Finance and human resources are always good to think about but maybe not in the way they are taught in school. My experience with finance has been about living simply, begging help from relatives, and running a large credit card balance now and then. H.R. has been easy except when it’s dreadful: disciplining and firing workers for things they have done, and sometimes having to lay them off because of bad business conditions.

Every business is different. The problems depend on the particular skill set of the owner. I hope that Michael’s volunteer helpers will work with business owners to identify areas of weakness and then provide actual help, not just advice. But that’s just me.

What would you tell Michael? If some bright-faced young business students showed up at your door, what would you want them to do?

Paul Downs founded Paul Downs Cabinetmakers in 1986. It is based outside Philadelphia.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/figuring-out-how-to-help-small-business-owners/?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Not Again!

Dashboard

A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

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

Small-Business Must-Reads

An unregulated, decentralized virtual currency just became a billion-dollar market (but Felix Salmon explains why Bitcoin’s rise is nothing to celebrate). A videographer, Dustin Cohen, tells a Brooklyn shoemaker’s story, and an important part of the health care legislation affecting small businesses is delayed.

The Economy: ‘We’ve Been to This Rodeo’

The March jobs report is a “punch to the gut” (but don’t blame sequestration). Companies added fewer workers than projected last month, held back by limited hiring in construction. Ylan Q. Mui wonders whether this is an April Fool’s economy: “We’ve been to this rodeo twice already. In 2012 and 2011, seemingly strong momentum in the first half of the year gave way to summer slumps. Will the third try be the charm? Or is this just another prank — one that’s getting old fast.” Construction spending (pdf), as well as personal income and consumption all increased in February but economic confidence slipped in March. Demand for office space improves. Car sales surge as General Motors introduces a pair of midsize pickup trucks for casual users and small businesses. Economic activity in the nonmanufacturing sector also grows. Steven Hansen says that despite the headlines, manufacturing is not good. And here are 16 big bubbles that are getting ready to burst.

Employment: Hiring Veterans

The National Federation of Independent Business reports that small-business employment climbed last month by the most in a year, but hiring fell according to a monthly survey by SurePayroll. Another study, from Intuit, found that small businesses hired more in February but revenues continued to drop. Derek Bennett says hiring veterans is good business. Workers in seven of the 10 largest occupations typically earn less than $30,000 a year, and for many small-business owners, two jobs are a must. A survey finds small companies favor immigration changes that would provide a path to citizenship.

Management: Disco and Leadership

Bill J. Bonnstetter writes that empathy is one of the qualities most entrepreneurs lack. Terry Starbucker explains what the rise, fall, and comeback of disco teaches us about leadership. Nick Tasler says there are reasons we ignore good advice. Nate Bolt provides a photo summary of how people sit in meetings and what they really mean. A new smart drug is especially popular among entrepreneurs.

Energy: A Zero-Energy Retail Store

The first refinery in the United States since 1976 is being built in North Dakota as the Obama administration moves ahead with sweeping rules requiring cleaner gasoline. Some blame the corn industry for high gasoline prices — but after a sharp two-month climb of nearly 60 cents a gallon, gas prices have fallen over the past month and may have peaked for the year. Even so, farmers are planning on planting the most corn since 1936. A retailer’s new store will supply its own energy.

Ideas: Smell-O-Vision

These are the 10 fastest-growing industries for small businesses. Teaching a course using your expertise is just one of five potential sources of side revenue you could be earning, according to John Corcoran. Samuel Wagreich thinks there are plenty of profits in 3-D printing. Sperm has become one of America’s hottest exports. A Smell-o-Vision display emits localized virtual odors.

Customer Service: Apple Learns a Lesson

This infographic sums up the true cost of poor customer service. Jason Harter explains how Twitter has revolutionized the way we interact with customers. This is how the Zac Brown Band cultivates fans. Small businesses are finding success with customer-relationship software. Lauren Simonds says giveaways can turn tough sales into easy ones. Apple learns a customer-service lesson in China.

Start-Up: A Giant Mood Swing

Peter Cohan lists five steps for raising start-up capital. Kevin D. Johnson believes “the potential for attaining greatness is in creating new markets.” These are the 11 start-ups that beat 1,700 others for spots in New York’s hottest accelerator program. Being the founder of a start-up is just “one big giant mood swing.” CNBC has a new series that will feature small businesses in a reality competition.

Cash Flow: Calculating Gross Profit

An alternative lender plans to provide loans to 100,000 small businesses this year. Here is a useful guide on how to calculate gross profit. Macy’s mistakenly marks down a $1,500 necklace to $47. Amanda Henson shares some options for finding the right small-business grant. Here’s how to go global with your small business, and a Small Business Administration official has advice for how to get payment for your export sales.

Your People: Working From Home

Barbara Corcoran explains what motivates employees more than money, and JJ Ramberg suggests three ways to energize your staff. Ian Smith offers ideas for creating a more positive environment for employees, and here are 26 delightful ways to make the work day more fun. Stephen J. Dunn analyzes the differences between employees and independent contractors. Liane Cassavoy offers tips for keeping your work-from-home employees accountable (without spying), and Mike Russell has thoughts on telecommuting from a manager’s perspective. A new study encourages men to do less housework.

Online: The Death of QR Codes

These are the top boards for monetizing Pinterest. Marla Tabaka has advice for attracting a huge crowd with LinkedIn. A co-founder of YouTube announces a new video-creation Web site. Christopher Mims explains how the Internet is making us poor. On April Fool’s Day, Google introduces a “search and smell” feature and trades insults with Microsoft. David Meerman Scott says you should never delete content. Dana Prince says your opt-out rate is one of five online metrics to watch. Christopher Penn says there are times when it’s O.K. to use boring e-mail subject lines. Aaron Strout believes QR codes are dying.

Taxes: The Bagel Tax

K’Lee Banks lists five ways to book the right bookkeeper. Here’s how to claim a home-office deduction for your small business. Paul Caron summarizes a few last-minute tax tips (but be sure to avoid these crazy deductions). These 10 corporate “taxation heroes” paid as much in taxes as the bottom 75 percent of all American taxpayers. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is outlining proposals to reduce the burden the tax code imposes on small businesses. And did you know that New York State charges an extra 8 percent tax if you ask for your bagel to be sliced? Was Shakespeare a tax-evading food hoarder?

Red Tape: Teenage Tanning

The chairman of the House small business panel wants to know how the Small Business Administration will deal with the sequestration’s impact. The president hints at a budget compromise, continues to push his plan to build infrastructure and plays an April Fool’s joke. The fight over an Internet sales tax intensifies. New Jersey’s governor signs a teenage tanning law despite small-business concerns. New software will allow New York taxi regulators to monitor taxi whereabouts in real time. Saki Knafo believes that New York’s paid sick leave bill may serve as a model for the United States, but New York’s mayor vows to veto it.

Around the Country: Mentor Month

An OfficeMax in Milwaukee refashions itself so that it can offer more to small-business customers. An online Ponzi scheme leaves a North Carolina town poorer. The Small Business Administration and AARP will hold a series of events for “Mentor Month.” A contest sponsored by the UPS Store will shine a spotlight on small-business owners. Local experts explain the difficulties of making money in Chicago’s comedy business. A longtime owner sells his Minnesota grocery store to his employees. A California city is allowed to go bankrupt. A survey ranks the most (and least) small-business-friendly states and cities while another study concludes that there is more economic freedom in red states. A bunch of people walk backward through Times Square.

Around the World: Jeddah’s Entrepreneurs

Cliff Wachtel shares seven lessons he learned from Cyprus, where many small businesses were caught in the cross-fire. A Small Business Saturday is scheduled for Britain, and a Startup Weekend highlighted Jeddah’s entrepreneurial spirit. Queen Elizabeth gets a raise. One Chinese entrepreneur believes mainland start-ups must “become huge or die.” China’s manufacturing growth improved in March but the euro zone’s manufacturing slump deepened. The Netherlands falls prey to the economic crisis and the mortgage crisis in Ireland is “insane.” In a survey, America is found to be the most difficult retail market while Africa is the most promising. With its new start-up visa program, Canada is hoping to lure foreign entrepreneurs. A Samoan airline decides to base its fares on a passenger’s weight. A global giving initiative is hoping to empower small businesses to change their communities and better their lives. Nauru is the world’s least visited country.

Technology: A Data-Centric Universe

New software puts Facebook front and center on Android phones. Kyle Wagner believes battery life is “the only spec that matters.” Mike Foreman says small-business awareness of the cloud’s benefits is growing. This is how to triple your business with a little guidance and good software. Brace yourself for a data-centric universe with sensors everywhere, says a chief technology officer. Karen E. Klein has examples of how small businesses use big data. The first mobile phone call was placed 40 years ago.

Tweet of the Week

@DearAnyone – A good way to get out of a conversation is to take off one of your socks and hand it to the person talking.

This Week’s Best Quote

Karen Vitale’s advice to her 20-year-old self includes, “Chill out”: “You will get dream jobs, lose dream jobs, realize there are no true dream jobs, and life will march on. Instead of trying too hard to get employers to want you, channel some of that nervous energy into figuring out if this is the best job for you. And if things do go south, remember that how you respond will say more about your character than any pat answer to an interview question. Do your best damage control and show the interviewer how you manage a crisis in real time.”

This Week’s Question: Do you support paid sick leave?

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/2013/04/08/this-week-in-small-business-not-again/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Small-Business Guide: Owners Assess Customer-Relationship Software

“They were way too complicated for us and did not have a great user interface,” she said. “I need to spend time running my business, not figuring out technology.”

That is the lament of many small-business owners trying to navigate the world of C.R.M. software, which automates sales and marketing functions and acts as a central database, keeping track of everyone who comes in contact with a business. The software enables businesses to communicate quickly and frequently with customers and keep track of their preferences and needs. For example, it automates tasks like sending out shipping confirmation e-mails and surveying customer satisfaction.

Small businesses generally do not need all the bells and whistles many advanced C.R.M. systems offer; instead, they need a program they can put in place quickly and easily, without the help of an information technology department. Many small businesses began using C.R.M. platforms in greater numbers about five years ago, said Amy Larrimore, managing partner at the Empire Builders Group, a technology consulting firm in Philadelphia.

“Technology makes it easier and cheaper to accomplish things,” she said. “And sales and marketing is traditionally a very labor- and cost-intensive part of a business.”

More recently, the platforms have become cheaper and easier to use, making them more of a crucial buy. With so many options available, we asked some small-business owners to tell us about their experiences.

FOR MICROBUSINESSES “Very small companies usually just need something to manage contacts,” said Ms. Larrimore. Her own firm used Batchbook until it reached 17 staff members, then it switched to Sugar C.R.M.

Taylor Aldredge, who heads branding and marketing for Grasshopper, a company in Needham, Mass., that offers a virtual phone system for small businesses, uses Buzzstream, software that helps manage social media marketing campaigns. It costs the company $40 a month for each of three users.

Mr. Aldredge wanted a way to track conversations with prospects, customers, journalists and bloggers. “I needed something that had the ability to track interactions and mentions — whether that is social media, links or press — to see which conversations were worth pursuing,” he said. The company’s customer base has grown 500 percent over the last five years.

Thanx, a San Francisco start-up that offers retail loyalty programs with rewards linked to a customer’s credit card, started with Salesforce. The service had many useful features, said Zach Goldstein, founder and chief executive of the nine-employee company, but needed “a huge amount of customization.” Mr. Goldstein could not afford to hire a consultant and felt frustrated that the system was not being used properly.

In December, he switched to Close.io, a platform that lets Thanx sales representatives make calls by clicking on a page representing a lead, without leaving the application or having to use the phone. It also sends and receives e-mails. “We started using it the day after we installed it,” he said. Thanx tested Close.io free as an early test user and now has five employees on its Lite plan, which costs $59 a month for each user.

FOR MOST SMALL BUSINESSES Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invitation-only professional organization for entrepreneurs under 40, has been using C.R.M. software from Infusionsoft for about a year. The organization offers a mentoring program, and Mr. Gerber uses the software to track those who are being mentored as they go through the program and to send them specific learning materials.

“It’s easy to customize content and create the right tracks for where that content needs to go,” said Mr. Gerber, who added that the software had increased his organization’s productivity. “If I have 50 people I e-mail today and want to follow up in a week, I can send a personalized communication by writing the copy once, adding in the variables, and it will be sent out at the exact time I need to the designee of my choice.”

“Within two quarters of using it, we had 10 times the revenue per month,” Mr. Gerber said.

Derek Christian, owner and chief executive of My Maid Service, with 37 employees in its Cincinnati and Dallas offices and about $2 million in revenue, also began using Infusionsoft a year ago. Mr. Christian paid $1,200 upfront along with a $200 a month licensing fee.

He praised the company’s tech support, and also liked the drag-and-drop interface and the ability to build a customized e-mail marketing campaign. Before employing C.R.M. software, he said, a third of his company’s leads were converted to regular customers; now, he said, conversions are up to 40 percent.

Shelly K. Winson, owner of True Choice Benefits, an independent health insurance agency in Chandler, Ariz., uses Sage ACT!, a C.R.M. system owned by Swiftpage. The software is loaded onto two computers in the office and Ms. Winson pays $300 per user. It has helped increase her database of current and potential clients to 5,500 since she started in 2009. She can segment her audience for marketing purposes, and she believes the system has improved her customer service.

NOT QUITE ENTERPRISE LEVEL Enterprise C.R.M. systems, like those from SAP or Oracle, can take years, millions of dollars and a parade of consultants to put in place, but they include powerful features. Yet some enterprise-level features are available in nonenterprise systems like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and a few newer platforms.

Mike Wolfe, president of WAM Enterprises, a digital marketing firm in Katonah, N.Y., uses Salesforce. His five-employee firm specializes in generating leads using social media, search-engine optimization and e-mail campaigns. Although some small-business owners say Salesforce is too complex for them, Mr. Wolfe likes the basic edition, Contact Manager, and pays $300 a year ($5 a user each month).

He said he especially liked the mobile app. “With the app, if a client needs to reach us and we weren’t planning on it that day, there’s no reason for anyone on our team to say they didn’t have the information they needed to call back,” he said.

Benjamin L. Luftman, a partner and co-founder of Luftman, Heck Associates, a law firm in Columbus, Ohio, that has 30 employees and four offices, likes the AppExchange, an online market where vendors sell a variety of business applications that can be integrated with Salesforce. Mr. Luftman uses Salesforce’s Enterprise edition, which costs $125 per user each month, with the Conga Composer app to create packets of forms needed by the courts for each client.

“I hit one button and all the fields in these forms are populated with that client’s information,” he said.

Acumen Learning, a training company in Orem, Utah, with 18 employees and $5 million in revenue, uses Insightly because it is flexible, said the company’s marketing director, Mike Wright.

“Big business C.R.M. systems tend to dictate your processes — how you will prospect someone and get them in the system,” he said. With Insightly, Mr. Wright said he can design and modify the processes his company uses. “We wanted to add two additional steps to our sales process, and it was changed overnight,” he said. He uses Insightly’s Advanced package, which costs $49 a month.

At RemoteStylist, Ms. Fallis is now using Capsule and paying $12 a user. She said it integrates easily with other applications, and she can customize data fields and segment customers for marketing initiatives.

“And Capsule’s support team is very responsive,” Ms. Fallis said. “I can’t sit back and wait for an answer when my whole operation is on hold.” 

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/business/smallbusiness/owners-assess-customer-relationship-software.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: Do Small Businesses Understand the Customer Relationship Systems They Buy?

Tech Support

What small-business owners need to know about technology.

Amy Larrimore of the Empire Builders Group.Courtesy of Empire Builders Group Amy Larrimore of the Empire Builders Group.

As discussed in the small-business guide we have just published, large businesses have long used customer relationship management software to automate sales and marketing and to manage their interactions with customers. In the last several years, though, small businesses have started using this kind of software, too. In part, that’s because the programs have become cheaper and easier to use.

Sorting through all of the options, however, can be a challenge. To discuss those options, we turned to Amy Larrimore, the managing partner of the Empire Builders Group in Philadelphia. Ms. Larrimore, who leads the firm’s information systems and technology division and who helps companies of all sizes choose the right technology for their needs, prepared the graphic below, which compares estimated costs for several customer relationship systems and is based on research Empire did for an actual client. The following conversation has been condensed and edited.

How does a customer relationship management system change things for a small business that traditionally knew many of its customers personally? [Read more…]

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/do-small-businesses-understand-the-c-r-m-systems-they-are-buying/?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: Do Your Board Members Represent Your Interests?

Searching for Capital

A broker assesses the small-business lending market.

Whenever small-business owners and entrepreneurs come to me looking for capital, I encourage them to think about the trade offs involved in choosing debt or equity. Sometimes there is no choice, and they have to pick one or the other. But often there is a choice, and that’s when it’s especially important to think things through.

The decision gets trickier when a company already has investors, particularly if they are venture capitalists. In these cases, there is often a board of directors, and they get to vote on whether there will be additional rounds of financing. That vote can prompt some interesting questions.

When the board members are venture capitalists, the vote can create potential conflicts. Are they voting based on what’s best for their own investment in the company or what’s best for the company? If the company is doing well, the investors generally would prefer there to be another round of equity investing — at a higher valuation than when they first invested. This way, the investors can show a return, even though the entrepreneur faces further dilution of his or her ownership stake.

This is what I call the venture capital treadmill. Once you’re on it, the investors always want the next round completed and the round after that. There are times when debt financing may be better for the entrepreneur, but that won’t help the venture capitalists prove that their investment is growing. The board members have a fiduciary responsibility to represent the best interests of the company. But how can they do this if their jobs are ultimately measured by the success of their own investments? Should board members with financial stakes in the company be prohibited from making these votes?

Above all, this is another reason that, if you choose to take on equity investors, you should interview them carefully. It’s not just about the money. As much as possible, you want to try to make sure that your interests and the investors’ interests are as closely aligned as possible. It’s a lot like getting married — both parties need to understand each other very well.

What do you think?

Ami Kassar founded MultiFunding, which is based near Philadelphia and helps small businesses find the right sources of financing for their companies.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/whose-interests-do-your-board-members-represent/?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: A Modest Proposal to Open Up Small-Business Credit

Searching for Capital

A broker assesses the small-business lending market.

In my last post about the state of small-business lending, I discussed the need to find a way to break through the gridlock in order to open up access to reasonably priced capital for small-business owners and entrepreneurs.

In this post, I would like to suggest that we create mechanisms and loan products that would allow lenders to be paid a percentage of an entrepreneur’s future earnings — irrespective of what company the entrepreneur ends up building or working for. The payments would continue until the obligation was paid off. (I’ve written previously about this idea on my company’s blog.)

While I am sure that many will consider this idea controversial, it’s also fairly simple. If you are an entrepreneur looking for a loan, and you have enough confidence in your business or idea, you should be willing to pledge to pay a percentage of your future earnings — regardless of whether your current idea succeeds — until you have fulfilled your obligation. This way, the lender is betting not just on a particular company or idea but on a person, one who is willing to put his or her neck on the line.

Perhaps this financing could be offered by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-regulated banks that could leverage their low cost of capital to help small businesses. Of course, this would require federal bank regulators to think outside of the box, but a form of this type of financing exists. It’s called revenue-based financing, and it involves a lender’s making a loan to a company in exchange for a future piece of the company’s revenue. In this case, the financing is tied to the success of a specific company, and not to the future of the entrepreneur. And it comes with expensive rates.

The market clearly needs new forms of collateral in order to keep rates reasonable and in check. In today’s environment, many small-business owners are forced to use their homes as collateral — but with so many homes underwater, many entrepreneurs do not even have that option. The upshot is that this “collateral crisis” either stymies innovation or forces the entrepreneur to obtain capital from an alternative source at very high interest rates.

In the new model I am proposing, because the lender is assured of a piece of the entrepreneur’s future earnings regardless of whether the current business succeeds, the lender should be willing to be more flexible with terms and rates. And finally, the mechanisms to enforce these loans do exist. If we can track down deadbeat fathers for a piece of their future earnings, we should be able to do so with entrepreneurs.

So what do you think? If you are an entrepreneur, would you consider taking a loan that collateralizes your future earnings? Presumably, instead of paying 40 to 60 percent interest for a six-month loan — as many of us are forced to do today — you might pay 6 percent interest on 10 percent of your earnings until your obligation is paid off.

And if you’re a lender, would you consider making these types of loans? Do you think this new collateral mechanism could open up credit markets and spur innovation and growth?

Ami Kassar founded MultiFunding, which is based near Philadelphia and helps small businesses find the right sources of financing for their companies.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/14/a-modest-proposal-to-open-up-small-business-credit/?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: This Week in Small Business: Nothing Magical?

Dashboard

A weekly roundup of small-business developments.

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

The Debt Ceiling: Spare Change Anyone?

As the debt ceiling deadline approaches, a new solution to the problem is floated: letting the Treasury Department mint a trillion-dollar coin. A Republican congressman tries to thwart the idea, but the White House didn’t rule it out. Felix Salmon explains why it won’t happen: “What we’re talking about here has a kind of cold war mutually-assured-destruction mentality.” Neil Irwin says the coin idea is “idiotic,” but says, “The fact that it is idiotic is kind of the point.” Edward D. Kleinbard thinks that issuing scrip could be another workaround.

Outlook: Nothing Magical

A popular small-business sentiment index continues to register low readings, and a Staples study finds that many small-business owners are feeling overworked. But according to another study, most small-business owners are excited about the year’s prospects. A new survey from Visa finds that the top areas of concern include the cost of health insurance, attracting new customers and rising taxes. Adam Ozimek believes there is nothing magical about small businesses: “We would be better off if people would stop romanticizing small businesses and instead focused on the outcomes that really matter, like economic growth and unemployment.” Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark say that the Soup Nazi is one of the six types of business owners.

The Economy: Shoddy Data

The global economy is starting 2013 surprisingly strong and American oil imports have fallen to their lowest in 25 years. Corporate profits are going up (in part because wages are going down). Office vacancy rates declined slightly. Matthew Yglesias complains that economists are using shoddy data. One member of the Federal Reserve Board disagrees strongly with the board’s policies. Companies are flooding the market with new debt.

Management: Get More Done

Regus offers five tips to expand your business in 2013. Eddie Yoon believes that to spur growth, you must focus on “prosumers.” In an effort to build her business, Bridget Ingebrigtsen is starting her year by building up her sources of energy. Geoffrey James offers 10 easy ways to get more done, including: “Never pick up on an unknown caller.” David Sumka predicts that monetizing data will be the holy grail of 21st-century businesses. Alyson Stanfield suggests five ways to simplify your art business in 2013. Pedro Hernandez shares three tips for small manufacturers, and Al Bredenberg explains how manufacturing leaders are beating economic volatility. Here are 10 restaurant trends for 2013, and a prankster pulls a prank on a few drive-through windows. This is the kind of message restaurant employees should be leaving on receipts. And here’s how companies win lifelong customers.

Your People: Where Are the Good Applicants?

Sharlyn Lauby explains how to hire great employees without a human resources department. If you work for a company run by a male chief executive whose wife is about to give birth — particularly a firstborn — you should hope they have a daughter. This may be the year your employees decide to quit. Catherine Rampell wonders if there really are no good job applicants out there.  The National Hockey League settles its lockout. The White House decides not to deport Piers Morgan. A photographer has a very close encounter with a polar bear.

Social Media: Six Small-Business Myths

Mack Collier points out the biggest mistake companies make when engaging fans through social media. David Sims debunks six small-business myths, including: “Social media is your ticket to success.” LinkedIn creates an interesting infographic to celebrate hitting 200 million members. Here’s how to get 10,000 “shares” on Facebook in 24 hours. Here are three small businesses that are successful on Facebook. This infographic analyzes whether business blogging is better than Facebook. A Canadian Internet service provider says Facebook advertising does work. But more teenagers use Tumblr than Facebook.

Marketing: Snappy Sales Presentations

Small businesses expect to increase ad spending in 2013. Jill Konrath suggests the best books for snappy sales presentations. In this video, Cilian Jansen Verplanke shares practical marketing tips. G.B. Oliver has a few examples of product copy that sells. Drew Hendricks shares five things small-business owners should keep in mind when developing a Web site, including: “Be sure to build relevant links.” Cliff Pollan believes there are seven ways to help Sales use marketing content to win buyer trust, including: “Ensure that any content you provide to Sales is easy for buyers to share, follow, or subscribe to.” Ryan Derousseau says there are content-development lessons you can learn from Doctor Who. Michael Rae believes visual content marketing will be the next big thing.

Finance: No 1099-K? You Still Must Pay

A seed-stage venture capital firm sets up shop on Harvard’s campus to catch young, entrepreneurial talent early (maybe some guys who can chug like this). Venture firm financing is at the highest since 2008. If you’re thinking of not paying taxes because you didn’t receive a 1099-K, Jennifer Escalona Dunn suggests you think again. Dawn Fotopulos explains how to manage a small-business credit line. And those crazy accountants at WithumSmith Brown are at it again.

Around the Country: Selling Out in California

Sales of small businesses hit a four-year high in California. Susan Johnston wants you to think about whether your business can be sold. Southern Maine Community College will hold a “Launch or Grow Small Business Success Conference” on Jan. 25. Starbucks rolls out a $1 reusable cup to reduce waste. Goldman Sachs extends its small-business program into Philadelphia, its 11th location. A Jersey City escalator rolls the wrong way.

Around the World: Doing Business in India

Euro zone unemployment hits another record high. Industrial output in Germany is below expectations. Greece’s deficit improves but its jobless rate soars. These charts show that China doesn’t have its old capacity to grow. Asia leads the world in the latest index of economic freedom. Gautam Chikermane says there are seven reasons you should be doing business in India. People in Sweden are screaming. What did President Vladimir Putin say to terrify this little boy?

C.E.S.: So Uncool, It’s Cool?

Here are seven standout technologies from last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, and this was the biggest news from the show’s press day. Mobility took the stage, Intel’s ultrabook triumphed quietly and Lenovo showed off a table PC. Alexia Tsotsis says C.E.S. is so uncool it may finally be cool. This was the nerdiest start-up at the show. Tech stock shares barely moved. Drew McLellan explains how to tell if your company is ready for C.E.S.: “You need to be ready for either end of the ‘oh my God’ spectrum.” Snooki unveiled her headphones and phones, and 50 Cent talked tech. Chinese electronics giants competed for American eyes.

Technology: Breaking the Internet

Chris Pirillo answers the question of whether to get a Windows Surface Pro. Tablet shipments are expected to pass notebook shipments. Here’s everything you need to know about Intel’s new chips. Mobile apps drive a rapid change in searches, and a British report says 20 percent of online sales are expected to go to mobile. Verizon announces new small-business plans for mobile users. This is what it’s like to experience technology after 25 years in jail. Aaron Pitman says that now is the best time to buy domains. Here are 13 solar start-ups to watch in 2013. And gadgets are slowly breaking the Internet. Ramon Ray sells his Small-Business Summit event. Linda Forshaw explains why customer relationship management is so important: “A C.R.M. solution enables knowledge about existing and potential customers to be shared throughout the business.” C.R.M. vendor Zoho offers new features for location and productivity. Sage’s ACT counters with social updates to help small businesses capitalize on customer insights and interests. Another C.R.M. and marketing tech company, Infusionsoft, raises $54 million.

Tweet of the Week

@colinwilson133 (National Hockey League player): Pumped I am no longer an unemployed 23 yr old living with his parents

The Week’s Best

Chris Long, who works at a Chicago-area Home Depot, lists a few things that every small-business owner should know about generators, including: “Before making a purchase, discuss your energy needs with a company representative or salesperson. A typical generator cannot harness enough wattage to power an entire commercial building. Therefore, focus on what your main priorities will be in the event of a power outage and ensure that the model you select can satisfy your needs.”

This Week’s Question: Do you think small businesses are overly romanticized?

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/2013/01/14/this-week-in-small-business-nothing-magical/?partner=rss&emc=rss