February 26, 2021

You’re the Boss: A Weekly Roundup of Small Business News

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

Hurricane Damage Watch

Nate Silver does the worst-case-scenario math — but the damages don’t seem to be as bad as feared.

Red Tape Update: Black Market Lemonade

The White House unveils a plan to help small businesses cut red tape, but business groups are lukewarm to the proposal. Congress introduces a Web tax bill while the House G.O.P. is getting closer to finalizing its regulatory rollback agenda for the fall. But hold on, three-quarters of our leaders lack a business background (pdf). Chicago, meanwhile, requires a license to help people fill out the paperwork to get a business permit, and Alabama’s new immigration law is irking businesses. A few brave kids buy illegal lemonade. A new survey finds that nearly one of every 10 midsize or big employers expects to stop offering health coverage to workers once federal insurance exchanges open in 2014. Felix Salmon discusses the regulations facing electronic payment companies. United States Department of Agriculture energy grants go to 900 farmers and small businesses.

The Fed: The Chairman Speaks

Ben S. Bernanke offers nothing to boost the economy. Cullen Roche thinks “you almost have to have been asleep over the last year to conclude that more QE (quantitative easing) is now going to save the day. As I said before it even started, QE2 was a monetary nonevent. QE3 will almost certainly be more of the same unless Bernanke substantially alters the form in which it is implemented.” Turns out that even though the Wall Street “aristocracy” got $1.2 trillion from the Fed during the last crisis, thousands of layoffs are expected on Wall Street this fall.

The Data: Wait. What Was That About Richard Branson?
Durable goods orders come in strong. Consumer delinquency rates fall to pre-crisis levels. But weekly unemployment claims continue to increase. June auto traffic decreased 1.4 percent. We may be looking at the worst year ever for new home sales. However, commercial property prices rise. The Chicago Fed reports improved activity (pdf) for July, and American auto dealers grew in 2011 for first time in a decade. And a naked Richard Branson saves Kate Winslet.

The Economy: The Economy Stinks (and So Do the Marlins)

A study finds that more than 20 percent of small businesses are seeing drops in profit of more than 25 percent. An investor site lists nine signs that a new global recession has arrived. But Adam Shell says that a recession is unlikely. Ezra Klein says, “It’s the household debt, stupid.” Scott Grannis reports that falling bond yields are revealing the market’s pessimism. James Pethokoukis says the economy is poised to make President Obama a one-termer. Michelle Hirsch and Eric Pianin offer eight ideas to save the president and the economy. The Congressional Budget Office says that our economic outlook is more dire than previously reported, but there are a few countries that are in worse debt situations. Rick Newman says the slowing economy is not bad for everyone — except in Miami where only 347 fans showed up for a last-place Marlins game.

Around the States: No More Funny Business

Devastated East Coast earthquake survivors clean up and Tweet things like: “I think Chris Christie just jumped into the race.” A new report says that delinquent debt is on the rise for very small and large businesses. But New York businesses are reporting improved finances. Business confidence in Texas is growing. New Jersey businesses plan more hiring. American City Business Journals reports that all but six states posted job gains in the past 12 months. And several states are reporting surpluses. A comedian gives an award to a Maryland barber shop.

Starting Up: This Start-Up Could Change the Way We Read Books

A new company aims to help businesses sell physical goods via subscription. NPR says that many workers dream about starting a new business and find it’s not so easy. Startup America announces its board and sponsors. Investors are keeping an eye on these five start-ups from Y Combinator’s Summer 2011 class. Missourians create the world’s largest BLT. A fuel-cell start-up scores $73.5 million from investors. AngelList, a Silicon Valley company that connects start-ups with investors, is opening operations in New York. Tinypay.me raises $1 million and bills itself as the easiest way to sell stuff online. Hopper, a start-up focused on travel search for consumers is raising $8 million. This start-up could change the way we read books. Mega Startup Weekend is coming.

Marketing: The Dark Side of Viral Content

Heidi Cohen explains how to get more from every sale. For example: “upsell customers with services associated with your offering.” Texting service Tatango says that 44 percent of Americans have opted into a text-messaging campaign. Daniel Alexandre Portoraro puts a human face on the act of telemarketing: “We each call about a hundred and fifty people an hour; that’s twelve hundred a day. Some are faulty numbers, others answering machines, many are immediate hang-ups. But regardless, this is the truly grueling part of telemarketing: the constant repetition.” Michelle Dunn explains how to make collection calls. Glen Stansberry warns us of the dark side of viral content. John Jantsch helps us get creative with Foursquare. Fox Business’s David Asman likes this entrepreneur’s products!

Management: Talk About Going Down With the Ship

Here are 18 amazing facts about small businesses in America. A new survey lists America’s Top 100 small-business influencers (recognize any names?). In a new video, Gap International’s founder discusses a “relentless innovation” video series. Ernests Stals says the secret ingredient to success is a “healthy mixture of stubbornness and flexibility.” A ferry runs aground because the captain gets stuck in the toilet. Beth Kowitt explains why McDonald’s always wins: “Every new item that ends up on customers’ trays has to have a strong business case that examines its profitability, the capital it requires, and how it can be built out nationally.” Marcia Kaplan believes that Internet sellers will weather the recent Standard Poor’s downgrade better than others: “The dollar will be weaker than other currencies so small businesses that export goods or sell online to foreign customers will have a greater price advantage.” Jane Morrison lists five surefire ways to ensure business longevity.

Your People: Surfing for Productivity?

A Capital One Bank survey suggests an improved job outlook for small businesses. But an Office Depot survey finds that 79 percent of businesses do not plan to add staff members in the next six months. Web surfing at work can boost productivity. A survey reveals that millions of people will waste time manually entering contacts into mobile phones. Forty-four percent of working Americans describe themselves as “free agents.” The president is mulling a plan to allow businesses to train the unemployed without having to pay them. Steve Blank shares a great process for choosing the right job candidate: “start with a pie chart.” Elizabeth Sile says August is a great time for employee reviews and offers five tips. Beware of these seven sites where your employees can burn bridges after leaving you.

Technology: Don’t Tell the Chinese We’re Using Tablets Now

China climbs past the United States to become the world’s largest PC market. As Steve Jobs resigns as Apple’s chief executive, here’s a fond memory. An infographic explains how voice recognition works. Will Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility usher in the dark ages? Small Business Computing’s Christian Gielber lists four technologies for small business. Epson introduces three projectors geared toward small business. IT Business Edge recommends five features to keep in mind when buying a laptop. Skype acquires GroupMe. Bill.com introduces a printed invoice mailing service.

The Week Ahead: Consumer Data Coming

Look for personal spending and income numbers on Monday, followed by the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index on Tuesday. A.D.P.’s nonfarm employment numbers are released Wednesday, followed by weekly unemployment claims on Thursday. On Friday we find out the official unemployment rate.

The Week’s Bests

Explanation for Why That Cat Grooming Shop Closed Hugh MacLeod says there are three types of businesses. First example: “The lost causes. New ones open and close all the time. Well meaning people who don’t really get what they’re doing, don’t really get what their customers are after, don’t really get much, in spite of their often valiant and kind-hearted efforts. Retired school teachers from Dallas, who never run a business before, who just moved out here recently because they liked the scenery, who suddenly decided to go into the restaurant business or whatever. These places usually close down in less than nine months.”

Ways to Become a Better Listener Celestine Chua offers seven tips to become a better listener. Example: “At every stage of the conversation, clarify to ensure you got the message right. This can be done by simply paraphrasing what he/she just said, in your own words.”

Way To Expand Your Newsletter’s Reach Dan Lewis explains how he grew his newsletter from zero to 10,000 subscribers in 13 months. One tip: “I participate in online communities. Here’s a poorly kept secret of the Internet: If you participate (properly) in a community, opportunities spring up. Reddit is an obvious one. I’ve been a redditor for five years, collecting 15,000 “link” karma over the span, and another 6,000 or so comment karma. I keep an eye out for Now I Know issues which are posted there (and sometimes post them myself, although in the case, the below does not apply) and when I find it, I thank the submitter and then point out where the article came from.”

This Week’s Question Do you participate in any online communities?

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://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2a511c8c2af18f4e4177c59642efaa16

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