June 19, 2024

You’re the Boss: This Week in Small Business: The Ratings Go Down, But Will the Ceiling Go Up?


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

S.P. RATES US. BUT WHO RATES S.P.? Stocks plunge when Standard Poor’s ratings go negative on United States debt. But by week’s end, the market recovers to a three-year high. Time’s Joe Klein asks: “Hey, weren’t you the same guys who gave AAA ratings to the repackaged sub-prime mortgage-backed securities that, in truth, were utter dreck? And didn’t that help cause the 2008 economic collapse?” Paul Krugman doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. If you’re confused, here’s a creepy animated explanation. Eric Tymoigne, an economist, says that credit-rating agencies are showing their incompetence. Zachary Goldfarb shows what can happen to a country when S.P. lowers its rating.

RAISING THE CEILING The debt ceiling looms. Ezra Klein says that not raising it would kill the economy. EconoSpeak’s Barkley Rosser says we need to abolish the debt ceiling: “The U.S. is the only country in the world that I could find after considerable searching that even has one.”

TRUMP LOSES THE SMALL-BUSINESS VOTE Looking for a way to insult Mitt Romney, Donald Trump decides to call the former venture capitalist a “small-business guy.” He also says, “My net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.” Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper reports on new advances.

ONE YEAR LATER It’s been one year since the BP oil spill affected Gulf area businesses. Some feel it could give a lift to a few Houston companies. Scientists feel that the gulf’s health is back to pre-spill levels. Many think that we won’t know the true effect for years. The politicians are still fighting.

TICKLE ME WITH DOLLARS Intel and I.B.M. report record-breaking numbers. G.E.’s profit rises. Apple’s earnings nearly double. The poker industry loses, but Intuit’s small-business bets are paying off. Even Elmo is talking money.

IT’S THE IPAD, STUPID Housing starts increase. Architecture billings remain flat. Jesse Jackson Jr. blames unemployment on the iPad, but don’t tell that to these smart entrepreneurs. And despite Representative Jackson’s concerns, the jobless rate falls in most states. McDonald’s hires 50,000 people. The outlook for builders continues to look grim. A YouTube video announces this month’s winners. China’s growing inflation poses a risk to the rest of the world. Carmakers start to raise prices as the cost of their raw materials rise. Sixty-four percent of small-business owners say that sales are down due to high gas prices, according to one survey. Lending to small businesses is deemed to be back to normal.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME Kansas City, Kan. is expected to have the fastest Internet connectivity in the country sometime in 2012, thanks to Google. Oklahoma City considers tougher regulations on taxi drivers, but other small businesses affected by the winter storms there can get special loans from the Small Business Administration. Mark Perry reports a renewed level of energy and optimism in Silicon Valley. Keenan Cahill thinks San Francisco is dynamite.

SHE’S SEEING RED TAPE The government may ask its contractors to disclose their political leanings. Lawyers around the world are gearing up for Intellectual Property Day. Connecticut’s Legislature is proposing a new, $10 million program to help local businesses compete for government contracts. A small mortgage lender is furious at the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: “Regulating how I am paid isn’t going to help the housing market. With this law, borrowers will have fewer options. Many will be disqualified from buying a home. We will see a big drop in refinance activity.”

THAT’S WHY I’M PAYING $50 FOR BLEACHER SEATS Ticketmaster tries a new pricing model. “Efficient pricing is one of the most important and untapped opportunities,” says Nathan Hubbard, Ticketmaster’s chief executive. Six successful entrepreneurs share their keys to success in a new video series launched by A.D.P. and the Small Business Administration. Ben Huh, chief executive of the Cheezburger Network, discusses the business of humor. An American Express Open survey finds that small-business owners are shifting their focus from just surviving to plotting growth.

DON’T GIVE UP Facing bankruptcy? Michelle Samaad of the Credit Union Times says that a fresh start is still attainable for many small businesses. In a new report, the S.B.A. agrees (PDF). First step is to give up that expensive wine.

CAN SOMEONE HAVE A ‘TALK’ WITH JACK? The average small business spends up to 255 hours and $2.3 million on tax compliance. David Letterman offers his Top 10 tax tips. The Internal Revenue Service allows kidnappers to take a dependent deduction. SmartMoney’s Jack Hough reports that small businesses are the engine of tax fraud: “The numbers suggest no one shirks their duty as taxpayers more than sole proprietors — not corporations and certainly not wage-earners.”

ONE WAY TO CUT COSTS President Obama signs the repeal of that 1099 rule. A Vermont columnist accuses I.B.M. of bullying the state on health care. If you want to cut down on office visits, check out this doctor.

MOONLIGHTING A few big names contribute big bucks to Startup America. Citrix announces an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get up to $400,000 in seed funding. Anil Dash explains how to fund a start-up without venture capital. Example: “Moonlighting. Pros: Lowers your start-up risk. A good fit if you have personal obligations that make quitting your job difficult. Cons: Can be a distraction to manage the old business. Requires immense discipline to pull off.”

GRANDPA, DO YOU HAVE PROTECTION? NASA awards $270 million to space-age companies. Mike Mandel reports that the Air Force is in great need of a bunch of domestic products. It looks like Japan’s construction industry is about to boom. A new venture automatically adjusts and distributes deals for local businesses depending on how busy the locations are. A new market: sexually transmitted diseases soar among seniors. Robert Jordan explains how to spot a $100 million idea. Example: “Successful company founders tend to be truly curious, and they don’t accept the status quo as being beyond improvement.”

SOMEONE LIKES THE PLAYBOOK Microsoft begins beta testing its cloud-based Office version. The next iPhone will ship in September, but the current one will continue to track our movements in the interim. PayPal teams up with Freshbooks in the United States. Tech Republic’s Jason Hiner is pleasantly surprised by the BlackBerry PlayBook. Half of federal agencies will be in the cloud within 12 months, according to a new survey. Google continues to push its WebM video streaming platform. Designer Whitney Hess enjoyed the TechStars NYC Demo Day last week: “I was absolutely blown away by the quality of presentations, the clarity of thought, and the sophisticated solutions developed by these small companies in just three months.”

TELL GILBERT GOTTFRIED Marketing Daily reports that one-third of loyalty rewards go uncashed. MarketingProfs’ Carolyn Hall teaches us the value of customer feedback. Example: “Learn how to share. In many cases, feedback data sits in a series of silos.” A successful chief executive explains his old-fashioned approach for finding customers. Example: “Even if they’re keen on handing over referrals for free, offer to compensate them.” Many motivational speakers are turning to comic books to brand themselves. Chris Pirillo warns us to think before we Tweet: “You’ve seen the Tweets that make you wonder if the person who typed it has temporarily lost their mind.”


BEST REASON TO AVOID SALT Susan Roth offers four cautionary tales of business etiquette. One story: “A group of litigation partners took a promising young associate out to lunch. All was going swimmingly until the hosts noticed that the associate added salt to each course before tasting his food. No one at the table said a word, but all of the partners spoke about it amongst themselves afterwards. They unanimously agreed that something as small as seasoning your food before tasting it was indicative of a serious character flaw — that of someone who makes decisions without having all the facts. Enough said.”

BEST LESSON WE CAN LEARN FROM CUPCAKES Hubspot’s Rachel Graveline gives us some marketing lessons from the increasingly popular cupcake: “Cupcakes are cute, small and easy to eat. You don’t need a plate or fork to eat them and you aren’t stuck with leftover cake for days after. Marketing takeaway: Get to the point quickly. Keep your page titles under 70 characters and your meta descriptions under 150 characters. When asking your visitors to fill out forms, don’t ask them to spend more time than necessary. The goal is to get visitors to learn about your products and take action.”

BEST DESCRIPTION OF MY KIDS Nicholas Carr concludes that Facebook is geared to a certain demographic: “To put it in layman’s terms, the study suggests that if you want to be a big success on Facebook, it helps to be a dullard.”

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Do you judge potential employees on their etiquette? (I admit that I sometimes do.)

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=b4f1390010d9641b709cac64ae07f2d6

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