June 24, 2024

You’re the Boss: This Week in Small Business: Tax Day Today, Deficits Tomorrow


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

DID YOU FILE? Individual tax returns are due today. A new survey finds that the federal tax code is “a massive resource drain for small businesses.” The Tax Foundation celebrates Tax Freedom Day. A study says that corporate-only tax reform could hurt small businesses. A hard-working entrepreneur pays off a $1.7 million tax debt.

OBAMA’S TURN Tyler Cowen points out that a lot of the 2011 budget cuts agreed to by Congress last week are frauds. Congress passes them anyway. The president says he will cut the deficit by raising taxes (here are the top 10 increases to expect), reducing spending (but not entitlements) and saving on interest. The V.P. snoozes. Paul Ryan says he is sincerely disappointed. Matt Yglesias thinks Mr. Obama’s premise is “weird.”

PESSIMISM IN THE AIR Gallup reports that economic optimism plummeted in the United States in March. So did the National Federation of Independent Business’s small-business confidence index. The Index of Industrial Metals hits an all-time high, but the Chicago Fed assures us that commodity prices really don’t push core inflation. First-quarter G.D.P. estimates are downgraded. But Regus, which rents office space to businesses and individuals, reports that global business confidence is surging (PDF). Accountants say half their clients are still in crisis. Oh great, and now I’m told sugar can be toxic. On a brighter note, Charlie Sheen says he may return to “Two and a Half Men,” and February job openings are the highest in two and a half years. The Pulse of Commerce Index is looking healthy, the trade deficit narrowed and retail sales increased in March. Rail volumes also increased. And the Fed says the economy’s improving.

NOT THE END OF THE WORLD What is the No. 1 thing investors will be watching this earnings season? F. Hale Stewart says there are seven headwinds confronting stocks. Mike Shedlock advises against a long-term approach to the market. Mark Thoma explains why economists just can’t agree. Catherine Rampell explains why we should fear the bond market: “If there is fear that the government will default on its debt, the costs for the government to borrow will go way up, as would be the case with any borrower.” Larry Kudlow says it’s not the end of the world. And Mickey Mouse shows us how to break dance.

MR. SALMON IS IN DENIAL A new Pew study finds that 81 percent of adults agree that buying a home is the best long-term investment a person can make. Felix Salmon thinks these homeowners are in denial, and admits he may be, too: “If you asked me the question in the poll (“Thinking about the recession, which began in December 2007, is your home worth more or less NOW than it was BEFORE the recession began, or is it worth about the same?”) about my own place in New York, I’d probably say it was worth more.” In exchange for mortgage payments, some consumers turn their houses into billboards. A Congressional panel finds that credit raters were the cause of the financial crisis.

DON’T GO WEST, YOUNG MAN Eight of 10 California business owners wouldn’t start a business in California. Kansas City’s small-business vitality index plunges. Kiplinger lists 11 comeback cities. Austin is the best city for “small business creation and development.”

GETTING GOOD P.R. FOR YOUR P.R. START-UP A start-up takes dating to a whole new level. An increasing number of entrepreneurial-minded immigrant students are choosing to navigate the murky waters of the visa process so they can open businesses in the United States. To spur innovation, Chile is offering American start-ups $40,000 in seed funding. Christopher Noll writes how to start a business for free. Score introduces a program to help military vets start their own businesses. Scoutmob, an Atlanta-based deals start-up with a “great vibe and product design” expands to 10 more cities. The best industry to start a business in is … public relations.

COMPETING AGAINST THE CHAINS David Hennessy thinks that Wal-Mart’s new price-match policy puts pressure on small businesses: “If customers are always going to get the lowest price at Wal-Mart, there’s really nothing you can do to compete with the company’s pricing. What you can do, and must do, if your shop has the distinct misfortune of being located within driving distance of a Wal-Mart is to play to your strengths as an independent small business. What can you offer customers that a place like Wal-Mart can’t?” Both Applebees and the Olive Garden come up with an innovative way to attract the youth market.

OUTLAWING COMPETITION A freshman in Congress uses his small-business experience to get his first bill passed. The French assert their authority. A new bill intended to level the competitive playing field between new car dealerships and independent repair shops is introduced in Congress. Gary Locke, Commerce secretary, explains the benefits of exporting for small-business owners. Brian Armstrong, a Web entrepreneur,  thinks technology and innovation are being stifled by the law: “Competition means that I’m continually kept on my toes trying to provide the best product at the best price. So it’s somewhat discouraging whenever I see companies NOT competing on quality or price, but instead by competing in the courtroom — trying to outlaw their competition.”

WILL SOMEONE HIRE WILL? Will Connelly, who has interviewed with more than 50 companies, has some advice for us. Tony Schwartz, chief executive and author, explains how he became an optimist: “Negative emotions such as anger, fear and blame make it harder to think clearly and creatively and can even be paralyzing.” What do you think are the five biggest challenges of owning a family business?

COOKING LESSONS FOR MOTHER’S DAY? Taco Bell is testing nacho cheese Dorito shells. A craft spirits industry begins to emerge among artisans. NBC Chicago starts a small-business blog. Soon we could be making cell phone calls with our thoughts. Matthew Keegan gives us Mother’s Day promotion ideas like: “Restaurants are packed on Mother’s Day, but not every mother wants to eat out. This gives other businesses an opportunity to come alongside families and provide a special meal or the fixings to make one. Caterers can deliver everything right to the home and take-out restaurants may offer exemplary dining options on the go. Other retailers can provide gift cards for cooking lessons, meals on the go and for kitchen ware.”

THE NEXT BUBBLE? PayPal’s Peter Thiel says the next bubble is higher education: “Parents see kids moving back home after college and they’re thinking, ‘Something is not working. This was not part of the deal.’” In a related story, a university studies 6-year-olds in an effort to explain democracy.

AN ADVERTISTING SHIFT These charts may suggest a saturation point in social media. John Paul Titlow thinks Facebook is great but asks if businesses can make any money with it: “Seven years in, shouldn’t Facebook be driving e-commerce by now? The businesses surveyed reported a 1 percent click-through rate on Facebook posts, which pales in comparison to the 11-percent average click-through rate seen with good old-fashioned e-mail marketing.” According to a new survey, more than two-thirds of marketers say they plan to invest more dollars in display advertising over the next 18 months, and 59 percent plan to invest more in mobile over the same period.

TECH NEWS Cisco decides the Flip is a flop. Microsoft’s Bing now powers 30 percent of all searches and introduces its own business portal. Odesk, an outsourcer, offers three steps for creating successful Web site videos. Information Week reports that 8.8 million tablets are in use at small businesses. Microsoft says its enterprise resource planning systems are going to the cloud.



BEST START-UP ADVICE Neil Patel, a co-founder of two Internet companies, offers 10 lessons learned from his experiences. For example: “Try to set hard deadlines and even if you don’t hit them, address it and set others. Meeting in person really does help drive a team. Working remotely is great when getting work done but inspiration doesn’t come from e-mails.”

BEST EXAMPLE OF BEING STREET SMART Corey Hofstein, blogger and investor, says he’s learned a lot from rap’s biggest moguls. For example: “Lil Wayne’s incredible productivity can only come from a mix of two factors: an unbelievable work ethic and an unbelievable passion for what he does. Is every song a hit? Unlikely. But as they say, practice makes perfect, and nobody has shot to stardom as fast as Lil Wayne.”

QUESTION OF THE WEEK How many hours a week do you work? I probably work at least 60, but it’s at all hours of the day and for the most part under my control.

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=74b35566e1c9abb86e7e53512db2feb5

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