April 20, 2024

You’re the Boss: This Week in Small Business: Oprah, Banks and Credit Cards


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

STORMS HIT HARD A devastating tornado hits Joplin, Mo., and a small-business owner copes with the aftermath. The Louisiana Small Business Development Center is preparing to assist businesses affected by the Mississippi flood waters. The Small Business Administration opens a recovery center in Decatur, Ill., to help businesses hit by the storms.

GOODBYE TO OPRAH, BANKS AND CREDIT CARDS Oprah Winfrey says bye-bye and her swansong leaves a void for small businesses. Seventy-seven banks also say bye-bye. Google’s commerce chief tells TechCrunch that it’s making a “huge bet” on near field communications technology and also plans to kill the credit card. Due to classic videos like this, YouTube celebrates its sixth birthday and gets three billion (yes, billion) views a day. A puppy celebrates its first birthday.

THE BUDGET GOES DOWN Anne All, a tech writer, wonders if the United States is becoming the new center of low cost manufacturing. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says wars and the Bush tax cuts are driving our debt. President Obama’s February budget is defeated 0-97 in the Senate. An academic is defeated by his cat. The G.O.P. plans a vote on the debt ceiling. Are Democrats eyeing a 62-percent top tax rate? Susan Solovic, a blogger, says small businesses didn’t have much to celebrate during National Small Business Week.

CONSUMERS ARE HURTING Jobless claims unexpectedly rose last week and consumer spending cooled in the first quarter. The Fed’s Elizabeth Duke paints a gloomy picture for consumers. A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows 50 percent of Americans would struggle to come up with $2,000 in a pinch. Many warn that a commercial real estate “day of reckoning” is coming. With costs rising 7.5 percent, Medicare breaks the inflation curve. At least honeymooners aren’t cutting back.

A SLOW ECONOMY, A FAST KID Russell Investments releases its update on the economy. Durable goods orders decline. The Richmond Fed reports a contraction in manufacturing. April business borrowing and credit quality improves. A three-year-old takes on an otter. Copper falls on slower China manufacturing. Japan falls into a recession. Gas prices decline. New home sales rise. Realtor.com lists the 10 markets where real estate prices are growing the fastest. Revised gross domestic product stays unrevised at an anemic 1.8 percent.

BRILLIANT IDEA OF THE WEEK Guitar picks from credit cards. Duh!

POMP AND UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCE We spend a lot more per capita on education, but do we get results? You might want to check out the returns. (Big surprise: artsy people earn less). I’m pretty sure these 20 kids won’t have much to worry about. Houghton Mifflin is giving away $250,000 to entrepreneurs who can offer ideas to fix our education system. The good news: three quarters of employers plan to hire recent college grads. Anna Lindow explains how to use social media for recruiting, like “you might consider creating a short video, as corporations like Facebook have done, to present your material in a more engaging manner.” Or you can just work more hours. Unfortunately, women still have a long way to go to be equal in the workplace. Guys, try not to be too happy.

ONE MORE THING TO BLAME ON MICROSOFT A survey says that 71 percent of small businesses are unaware of cloud computing. Intel debuts a “hybrid” cloud service for small business. Dropbox users save a million files every five minutes. Christopher Mims says mobile apps will soon be dead: “The seeds of destruction for both iOS and Android app stores have already been sown — by none other than Google.” Megan Conniff explains how the Five Guys burger chain implemented online ordering. Twitter buys TweetDeck. Signs show desktop virtualization is coming of age for small business. God allegedly blames Microsoft Outlook for missing the rapture. The L.A. Times’ Cyndia Zwahlen reports that hackers don’t care whether businesses are big or small. Coming soon: a climbing robot.

THE BEST BAD START-UP PITCH EVER David Lee and Ron Conway bust a few entrepreneurial myths on stage at Disrupt. Worcester Business Journal’s Matt Pilon writes about key slip-ups every start-up should avoid. Willis Wee logs some ideas from Startup Weekend Tokyo. A new venture that helps enable the transfer of health records over the Internet receives $5 million in funding. The executive director of the National Association for the Self-Employed lists five big myths about American small businesses. John Baldoni shares three traits of successful entrepreneurs. Paul Kedrosky thinks this is the best bad start-up pitch ever. Nokia wants your ideas. James Altucher explains how he self-published a book, and how you can, too: “There’s no financial benefit for going with a publisher if advances are going to zero and royalties are a few percentage points.”

IN DEFENSE OF BANKS? Mike Shedlock wants answers to a few important questions before the banks are attacked. Example: “I do not know how big the “strung along” category is, but the only ones in this category who were genuinely harmed to any significant degree are those who continued to make mortgage payments, strung along on a promise, when instead they could have and should have walked away. How many is that? You tell me.” Bank profits are the highest since 2007. Bank of America hires 75 small-business bankers in the mid-Atlantic area. Banks plan to offer cash transfers via cell numbers and e-mail addresses.

DON DRAPER TEACHES US MARKETING A study says that American small businesses will spend $36 billion on marketing activities in 2012. A matching service tries to pair small businesses with big business opportunities. Groupon figures out a great way to get unsubscribers to re-subscribe. Gail Goodman, Constant Contact’s chief executive, gives us six quick-hit marketing ideas for social media. Example: “Share a casual video message from yourself or one of your employees, or a customer testimonial video.” A graphic unravels the mysteries of affiliate marketing. Pitney Bowes announces a customer communications makeover contest for small-business owners. Sean Platt reveals what Don Draper knows about persuasion and success: “Even the most adventurous among us crave the sublime comfort of the familiar. Many writers and marketers understand this human need, but Don tumbles the thought by reminding us that true nostalgia isn’t a deep longing for the past so much as an affectionate feeling for a future that feels like a friend.”

BROTHELS WANT TO PAY TAXES Thousands of companies and nonprofits that received funds from the Obama administration’s economic stimulus program owe hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. But Chrysler coughs it up to Uncle Sam. Some House committee members are trying to repeal the 3 percent withholding tax provision. The Nevada brothel industry wants to pay more taxes.

THE WEEK AHEAD The Consumer confidence index appears Tuesday. Look for Friday’s unemployment rate to still be high. Look for big crowds at Dunkin’ Donuts on Friday.


STUPID INDEX Try to figure out your quality of life with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s new Better Life Index. Ummm, is there anything here you wouldn’t rate highly?

ADVICE FOR GETTING CASH The Kauffman Foundation’s Brian O’Connell explains how to land health care (or other) seed money. Example: “Get to know your favorite V.C.s. You wouldn’t pick a business partner without getting to know every facial tic. So why wouldn’t you do the same for a venture capital firm, which is a close business partner by any definition? When you start to look for investors, make sure you know how they think, and what they want to see and hear from the companies they invest in. Go see them speak, attend the same seminars, read their books and white papers, study their Web sites, Google them, and yes, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, if that access is available. That way, when you do get a chance to present, you’ll know what clicks the pilot light on for that venture investor – and you can target your presentation accordingly.”

WISDOM BEYOND HIS YEARS Feross Aboukhadijeh, a Stanford student, says  none of us knows what we’re doing. Example: “Don’t listen to successful entrepreneurs. The folks who succeed have no way to know if their success was due to talent, skill, and planning, or merely dumb luck. If you ask them though, they’ll confidently spout reason after reason why they — and no one else – could possibly own 90 percent of the desktop PC market, or whatever they achieved. In their minds, it couldn’t have turned out any other way. Most of this is just after-the-fact rationalization, though. The truth is, they succeeded and have no idea why. They’re just explaining it in the best way they can.”

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION Do you feel confident that you know what you’re doing?

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, and you can read his read his new book.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=486e354c256c8cb60aa0f979e7e83d30

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