July 16, 2024

You’re the Boss: This Week in Small Business: Repeal the Tanning Tax!


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

BERNANKE SPEAKS, THE MARKET DROPS In a speech, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, predicts stronger growth ahead, but the markets do not believe him. Lawrence White, economics professor, says the Fed chief is just hoping for the best. Tim Duy tells us not to expect any more help from the Fed: “Federal Reserve officials accept the economy at face value – growth is slower than they would like, unemployment higher than they would like, but policy makers, fiscal and monetary, believe they are pretty much out of bullets.” The federal budget deficit totals $929 billion for the first two-thirds of the year. And the world thinks we’re hilarious.

THREE ECONOMISTS, THREE OPINIONS Martin Feldstein says the economy is worse than we think. Scott Grannis is encouraged by the decline in credit card delinquencies and healthier financial markets. Robert Reich just blames the Republicans. Obama’s economic spokesman quits. (Me? I’m thinking of changing my religion.)

WILL WORK FOR BEER The National Federation of Independent Business says that job creation is collapsing on Main Street. But another survey says that small businesses are hiring. Gallup’s Job Creation Index stays about the same. The research firm IBIS World identifies the top 10 industries that are hiring. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there has been a net gain (PDF) of 1.2 million jobs over the last 12 months. And jobs are so tight in Silicon Valley that a firm is offering applicants $10,000 and a year’s supply of beer.

COPING WITH STRESS An Associated Press analysis concludes that our economic stress is at a two-year low (but here’s one exception). United States rail traffic rises. Record exports reduce the trade deficit. The Ceridian-U.C.L.A. Pulse of Commerce index falls. The forecast for Alaskan small businesses is promising. Iceland is the most peaceful place in the world. A National League of Cities survey shows glimmers of hope. Another survey says small businesses are cautiously confident.

GETTING RICHER, FEELING POORER A new study says that most Americans are not preparing for retirement; another finds that 44 percent will never invest again. But the top 1 percent are earning more income, and keeping more of it, than at any time since the 1920s. And household net worth increased $10 trillion in the last two years.

TWO AND A HALF BUSINESS MEN An Internet comedy series about entrepreneurs has its debut.

HEALTH CARE HERE AND THERE A new report says that taxes and health care costs put the United States in line with Europe. Ezra Klein says that government health care works: “Canada has a single-payer health-care system. The government is the only insurer of any note. The United Kingdom has a socialized system, in which the government is not only the sole insurer of note but also employs most of the doctors and nurses and runs most of the hospitals. And yet, measured as a share of the economy, our government health-care system is the largest of the bunch.” Roger Chittum writes that Canada has lousy health care. A Rasmussen poll finds that 54 percent favor repeal of the health care law and 56 percent say the law will increase the deficit. States are slow to adopt to the transition. Perhaps eliminating playground equipment like this would reduce health care costs?

NO HAIR BRAIDS? I’M NOT CONCERNED The White House considers a payroll tax break. The Senate defeats an attempt to delay debit card fee reform. John Whitehead says a good thing came out of the recession: state park fees. House Republicans file a bill to repeal the tanning tax. A man gets cited for paying his bill with 2,500 pennies. Ryan Young’s regulation of the day is about braiding hair.

GET OFF OF MY CLOUD! Bob Cringely says that Apple’s iCloud is designed to kill Windows: “Apple and Google will compete like crazy for our data because once they have it we’ll be their customers forever. This transition will take at most two hardware generations and we’re talking mobile generations, which means three years, total. With no mobile market share to speak of and Windows 8 not due until 2013, Microsoft is likely to be too late to the party, with much of Redmond’s market cap transplanted eventually to Apple and Google.” A Microsoft vice president says the company is “far from the living dead” and continues to pursue important patents like flicking your pen.

MY MEMORY IS ALREADY DISABLED Skype goes down again. Citigroup gets hacked. Twitter can now automatically shorten URLs. Paul Mah says that disabling virtual memory is one of six ways to get a better laptop experience. Juniper projects NFC mobile payments will approach $50 billion globally by 2014. Many small businesses are developing their own apps.

REALLY? IT WAS JUST A STUNT? TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis explains what @RepWeiner can teach us about online life. John Jantsch explains how to use the Google +1 button. Patrick Schwerdtfeger tells us how to re-purpose our content online: Example: “You could even use a distribution platform like iSnare.com to get it on hundreds of article directories within days. Each directory will allow you to include a link back to your Web site so this strategy will result in hundreds of one-way inbound links to your Web site.” The girl with 152 Facebook friends tattooed on her arm admits it was just a stunt. Speaking of stunts, there’s no way this baby is for real, right?

NOT A FAN OF GROUPON Ilie Mitaru explains what’s wrong with Groupon for small businesses. One example: “By offering your products or services at such steep discounts, you are implicitly saying that your company is willing to be flexible — very flexible — with the value you place on your products or services.” The benefits of social media to small business are catching up to e-mail. Michael Schrage explains how we can manage ourselves better with our smartphones.

OUT TO LUNCH Robert Scoble is having lunch with Ashton Kutcher and needs some advice. My advice: do not invite this kid. Or, just grab a couple of million and lunch with Warren Buffett.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? Steve Landsburg takes a stab at why some hotels charge for Wi-Fi and others do not. Researchers at Kellogg Insight explain why we trust some people. Morningstar’s Jascelyn Mackay reports that there’s no ‘Easy’ button for office products distributors. Wray Rives explains the differences between a C.P.A., an enrolled agent and a bookkeeper. Ramon Ray says there has never been a better time to be a small retailer. Jeff Beals shares a lesson from the mall: “Today’s harried shopper simply doesn’t have the time to spend the whole day at the mall. Speed and convenience are critically important. Shoppers still want luxury and entertainment, but they have to be easily accessible and located close to homes or offices.”

GREAT IDEAS (MOSTLY) Two new companies claim to reduce computer chip power usage and lower the cost of energy. A Wisconsin company gets $11 million to figure out a cure for cancer. A start-up gets $2 million, but no one seems to know what it does. Female prison inmates are taught how to start a small business. Many M.B.A.’s get a taste of the corporate life before venturing out alone. And just what the world needs: a Rocky musical!

THE WEEK AHEAD A busy week for data: retail sales (Tuesday), producer and consumer prices (Tuesday and Wednesday), building permits (Thursday), the Philly Fed manufacturing index (Thursday), the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey (Friday). And, no matter how mortifying your dad is, don’t forget him Sunday.


BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE LESSON An associate editor at Harvard Business Review learns the secret of customer service from, yes, an Amtrak employee: “”You’ll just do that? Just like that? That’s, that’s amazing,” I sputtered.

BEST IDEAS TO INCREASE REVENUE Dan Kennedy and Jason Marrs offer three ways to raise prices without losing customers. Example: “Upgrade your venue. The importance of context when it comes to buying can’t be underestimated. The difference in price between a face cream sold at a Walgreens Co. store and one sold in the home by Mary Kay, or at a cosmetic counter at higher-end stores such as Saks or Neiman Marcus, or at an exclusive Parisian boutique can be disproportionate to the difference in the product’s ingredients. The price is governed by the expectations of the consumer largely based on where they are buying it, the brand and the expertise of the salesperson — not the product.”

BEST EXCUSE TO PLAY GOLF Lou Dubois shares business lessons learned on the golf course, such as “contrary to popular belief, though, deals are rarely closed on the golf course. If you approach the round with that sole intention, you’re likely to leave without a contract — and with a ruined relationship. Good things take time, and golf provides a relatively low-stress, tension-free look into business executives.”

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION What do you think is the secret to customer service? At my company, we try to resolve problems the same day.

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=8b8d4734e48d1a4ca65d811626b2b4d0

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