April 15, 2024

You’re the Boss: This Week in Small Business: Putting POM Wonderful on the Map


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

BERNANKE MEETS THE PRESS In his first regular news conference, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve,  said the central bank is ending round two of its quantitative easing (QE2) and projects slower growth and a modest uptick in inflation. Paul Krugman thinks Bernanke wimped out: “He has been intimidated by the inflationistas and is looking for excuses not to act.” Moneywatch.com’s John Keefe says, “The massive push of monetary policy through QE1 and QE2 did not make it through the system to provide additional credit to businesses.” Forbes’ Neil Weinberg thinks Bernanke is the Manny Ramirez of monetary policy. Some economists think QE2 was a flop.

HAS THE AGE OF THE ORC BEGUN? The International Monetary Fund says the Age of America is near its end. Wal-Mart’s chief executive says consumers are running out of money. A survey of small-business owners finds that Americans feel their economic dominance waning. A new Wells Fargo survey finds small-business confidence slipping.

A BIGGER WORRY: Why does Joe Biden have an economic adviser?

REAL ESTATE IS STILL LOUSY Calculated Risk reports more bad news for the real estate industry. Housing prices edge toward 2009 lows. Renters are facing record affordability problems. But new home sales are up (thanks to Tiger Woods). And the ports of Galveston, Charleston and Savannah are busy. Consumer confidence increases slightly. An Associated Press survey finds that only an oil shock can stop us now. The Wall Street Journal’s Justin Lahart reports that high gas prices can affect our buying choices. And last week’s S.P. downgrade could actually wind up making our bonds more attractive.

CONGRESS RETURNS THIS WEEK Business Pundit lists 10 big lobbies in Washington. A congressman says, “If the E.P.A. continues on its crusade of destruction and over-regulation, manufacturing and energy companies will take their business to friendlier lands overseas, jobs will be destroyed, and the environment will not be any better off.” A Democrat goes after oil speculators. The birther movement takes a hit and now Trump must defend himself against serious allegations.

THIS PARAGRAPH BROUGHT TO YOU BY POM WONDERFUL The Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Citibank plan to open a small-business “center of excellence.” San Francisco prepares for its small-business week. A Senate bill that would create a visa to make it easier for immigrants to start businesses in the United States could be a boon to Silicon Valley. A Pennsylvania town changes its name to promote a movie (and a certain pomegranate-based antioxidant). Missouri cuts a tax. And can you guess which state is tops in puppy sales (hint: it’s not Pennsylvania)?

WHERE’S YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH? A winery is offering $20,000 in grants to entrepreneurs. The New York Enterprise Report offers a webinar on entrepreneurship. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology introduces a $100,000 elevator-pitch contest. The world’s last typewriter factory closes. New airlines keep popping up. The royal wedding spurred lots of small-business opportunities. A few smart cookies won the 2011 Harvard Business Plan contest.

MONEY IN THE MACHINES A group coupon-buying site offers a new approach: “Unlike other group coupon sites, we charge only a small, monthly membership fee — and the first six months are free to try out. We don’t even ask for a credit card to sign up.” Noobpreneur.com thinks a vending-machine business can make an excellent start-up: “As a vending-machine business owner, an entrepreneur can expect rather lax hours, low start-up costs, and a fairly easy daily routine.” The O’Donnells launch a new Web site to help entrepreneurs market on the Internet. A start-up takes advantage of a mistake by Google. Chase commits to lending $12 billion to small businesses in 2011.

IT’S LESS RISKY IN RUSSIA? China’s policies may be hurting American businesses. The weak dollar makes American exports more attractive. Entrepreneur Serge Faguet explains why it’s less risky to build a start-up in Russia than in Silicon Valley: “Russia has many markets that are not dominated by anyone, while in other countries similar markets have companies that are already worth billions. There is a lot of buzz, but there are very few companies that are doing the right thing successfully.” A little advice for your Russian start-up: bring this guy along for the ride.

THE HEALTH CARE DEBATE CONTINUES John Taylor says last year’s legislation provides a disincentive to work. American Public Radio reports that small-business owners continue to tussle with the bill. The Supreme Court isn’t ready to hear a case on health care reform. A patient emits a potentially harmful gas.

PROBLEMS IN THE CLOUD Amazon’s apologies for its cloud service outage last week. CRN’s Robert Faletra discloses a big problem with the cloud: there’s no one to call for support. Mark Rushing isn’t impressed: “Despite all the effort and cleverness a systems engineer will devote to maintaining up time, the fact is, we are returning to a single point of failure every time we put something on the cloud, unless we are using the cloud as merely a supplementary or backup mechanism or have those mechanisms ourselves as backup.” Sony’s customers find their confidential data disappears in the … well, you guessed it.

YEAH, BUT DOES IT CALCULATE MILEAGE? Steve Jobs invents the HumancentiPad on South Park. John Brandon describes four geeked out cars for business, including the 2011 Audi A4, which “uses a new 3D mapping technology (Google Earth) and links to a server using a T-Mobile connection in the car. This means you can explore your surroundings and even see a rendering of what the office building across town looks like before you get there.” Netflix has more subscribers than the largest cable operator in the United States. Research in Motion buys scheduling-application maker Tungle. Meryl the Content Maven offers 10 steps for fixing common tech problems.

IS THE WEB DYING? Mobile payments company Square gets a boost from Visa and then its chief operating officer says the Web is dying: “Smartphone and tablet users prefer using native apps whenever possible, and only visit the browser as a last resort.” Memeburn’s Jennifer Kling wonders if Facebook is still right for small businesses: “Evidently, the ‘free’ platform that was Facebook is slowly becoming more and more unfree as we speak.” Karen Klein offers advice for improving your search engine optimization skills: “S.E.O. experts are basically self-taught, so your investment in upgrading your skills is likely to be more time-oriented than financial.”

WINNING/NOT WINNING Winning: a Seattle small-business owner gives a lift to cancer patients. Winning: Raj Thakkar, founder and chief executive of Charter School Business Management, is New York City’s Small Business Person of the Year. Winning: a start-up arrives in January and is sold to Yahoo for $13 million in April. Losing: Bree dumps Charlie.

ACTUALLY, IT’S THE AGE OF WOMAN More working women than men have college degrees. N.P.R. reports that sitting all day is worse for you than you think.

COMING THIS WEEK: Keep an eye out for the release of April’s manufacturing numbers (Monday), construction spending (Monday), auto sales (Tuesday), retail results (Thursday) and  job numbers (Friday).


BEST REASON TO LOVE COMPETITION Josh Liu says not to be afraid of competitors: “Good competitors challenge you and force you to think hard about your business. If you are not any better, or cheaper, why should people buy from you? Your competitors can help you to examine your business, identify your competitive advantage, or further differentiate yourself in the market.”

BEST APPROACH TO SOLVING YOUR PROBLEMS Lifehacker’s Adam Dachis gives us a systematic approach to solving just about any problem: “You not only need to make your plans flexible, but you want to try and plan for surprises as well. You won’t always know what they are, but you can make educated guesses and be a little more prepared to deal with issues when they arise. This will help keep you motivated when solving problems that take more time, as these surprises won’t be so devastating if you’re ready for them.”

BEST EXCUSE TO YELL AT YOUR EMPLOYEES Terry Starbucker recommends 10 ways to freshen up our leadership. Example: “Find a fault, and make a big deal out of it. This is one of my favorites, because there’s always something that you can improve. Always. Just find it, and then, at a staff meeting, make a point to let everyone know you are not pleased. A little table-pounding is helpful too, but not too forcefully. You don’t want your staff to think you are going ‘Network’ on them.”

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Do you think yelling is ever justified in the office? I’m not sure I would do that.

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=27ad7d5e0b0be6758e5d3b946382baf4

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